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Understanding why some women become resistant to breast cancer treatment

  • Researcher: Dr Luke Gaughan
  • Institution: University of Newcastle
  • Award Amount: £182,736 for 3 years from January 2012
  • Cancer Type: Breast Cancer
Understanding why some women become resistant to breast cancer treatment
Female breast cancer incidence rates in Great Britain have increased by more than 50% over the last twenty-five years. In 2008 almost 47,700 women and 340 men were diagnosed with breast cancer.  Happily, breast cancer survival rates have been improving over the last 40 years but while it still claims the lives of around 11,500 women and 80 men in the UK each year, more research is needed. The growth of many breast cancers is dependent on the hormone estrogen.  An effective treatment for these breast cancers is tamoxifen, which works by blocking estrogen from attaching to its ‘docking station’ called the estrogen receptor. However, some breast cancers do not die and are resistant to this treatment or they can develop resistance over time this is what Worldwide Cancer Research have awarded a grant to Dr Luke Gaughan to investigate. One reason for the resistance could be other molecules incorrectly controlling the activity of the estrogen receptor.  Dr Gaughan has previously identified two molecules, called JMJD1A and JMJD2B, which are somehow able to do this.  With his new Worldwide Cancer Research grant he is now trying to determine how JMJD1A and JMJD2B are involved and how they work with each other to turn on the estrogen receptor.  He will be carrying out his work in a range of different types of breast cancer cells to see if JMJD1A and JMJD2B work the same way in all of these cells. Ultimately, these results could provide evidence that turning off JMJD1A and JMJD2B may be a potential new way to treat breast cancer.  This would mean drugs to turn off these two molecules could then be sought.
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