Developing a delivery system to improve treatment for aggressive breast cancer
Dr Greta Varchi and her team are trying to improve the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer by designing a new way of delivering drugs to the tumour.
Hope for the future
Triple-negative breast cancer is the most aggressive type of breast cancer and is more common in people under the age of 40. Over 8,000 people are diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in the UK every year and effective and targeted therapies are still lacking. Just over 6 in 10 people with triple-negative breast cancer survive for five years or more, trailing behind the average for all breast cancers of more than 8 in 10 people.
Dr Varchi and her team are now developing a highly innovative way to deliver treatments directly to the tumour to improve survival rates. They hope that their new treatment strategy could also be applied to other types of cancer in the future.
Meet the scientist
Dr Greta Varchi packs her time away from the lab with travelling around Italy and Europe (including two pilgrimages of the “Camino de Santiago), running (marathons!), favourite movies (Notting Hill), reading (at least 1 hour a day) and experimenting in the kitchen (Tortellini, Lasagne, Ragù). She also points out that “one of my favourite hobbies is my job! I feel I have the most beautiful job in the world”.
Triple-negative breast cancer does not rely on oestrogen, progesterone or HER2 protein to grow, which can make it difficult to treat. Recent evidence suggests that a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy might be a way forward, but it remains unclear how to best deliver the drugs to the tumour without causing too many side effects.
Dr Greta Varchi and her team are now investigating a way to deliver the drugs directly to the tumour by exploiting certain cancer cell characteristics. They are developing a new “nano-system” onto which both drugs can be loaded. The nano-system then releases the two drugs only under the specific conditions which are present at the tumour site. By delivering the drugs directly to the tumour, Dr Varchi and her team hope to reduce side effects, while improving the effectiveness of the treatment.
Without your support, this research would not be possible. I will do my best to deserve your trust and achieve the results that I planned to achieve. I do not know you in person, but I think of you when I do my job.Dr Greta Varchi
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