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Understanding how ‘sleeping’ breast cancer cells can reawaken

  • Researcher: Dr Roger Gomis
  • Institution: Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB), Barcelona, Spain
  • Award Amount: £172,409 from 1st June 2015 for 3 years
  • Cancer Type: Breast Cancer
Understanding how ‘sleeping’ breast cancer cells can reawaken
Dr Roger Gomis is trying to understand how breast cancer can return.  He told us “The increasing number of breast cancer survivors is cause for great celebration.  However, this expanding population has highlighted the problem of tumour dormancy.  This is where cancer cells do not die when treated with cancer drugs but instead remain in a ‘sleep-like’ state which can lead to relapse when they reawaken.”  Different types of breast cancer have varying risks of recurring.  This is likely due to the different ways in which the cancer cells become dormant or ‘sleep’. He continued “We can begin to decide how best to treat these dormant cells by understanding more about the biology of dormancy.  Firstly, we need to be able to calculate the probability that these dormant cells will actually wake up and go on to progress and form new tumours, rather than remaining asleep.  This progression is poorly understood in animal models and even less so patients.” Dr Gomis hopes that if this project is successful, it will lead to the identification and characterization of a gene with important functions in controlling dormancy in breast cancer.  This knowledge will provide an explanation for the long-standing question about cancer cell dormancy and might open new treatment opportunities that represent a change in clinical practice and treatment of patients with breast cancer. He told us “This grant will be pivotal to leverage the scientific opportunities arising from our recently developed cancer dormancy experimental model. We feel very fortunate to be now in a position to push this groundbreaking research to its limits.
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