Research projects

Finding a new treatment for invasive lobular breast cancer

Professor Darran O’Connor
Project period
January 2021 - March 2024
Research Institute
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Cancer types
Breast cancer
Award amount

Project aim

Professor Darran O’Connor and his team are testing a new type of drug that could help treat an aggressive form of breast cancer called invasive lobular breast cancer.

Hope for the future

Invasive lobular breast cancer is the second most common form of breast cancer and starts in the milk-producing glands of the breast. This type of breast cancer can be difficult to treat when it becomes resistant to the first line of treatment. Professor O’Connor and his team are now testing new targeted drugs to overcome treatment resistance in invasive lobular breast cancer. They hope that their work will pave the way towards clinical trials in the future.


Meet the scientist

“I like to travel with my family and definitely miss sunny places while we are not able to go anywhere during the current restrictions! I also love music and am a regular attendee at Glastonbury (one of my favourite places in the world!).”

The science

Invasive lobular breast cancer often is “oestrogen receptor-positive” (ER+), which means that the cancer cells need the hormone oestrogen to grow. ER+ breast cancers are usually treated by blocking oestrogen from interacting with cancer cells. Over time, some breast cancers can become resistant to this kind of treatment and other treatment options, such as chemotherapy must be used instead. Unfortunately, invasive lobular breast cancer does not tend to respond to chemotherapy – meaning that there is a pressing need to develop new treatment options for this type of breast cancer.

Professor O’Connor and his team discovered that some patients with invasive lobular breast cancer have high levels of a molecule called Brd3 and that these patients had worse outcomes than patients with low levels of Brd3. Professor O’Connor and his team tested newly developed drugs that block Brd3 and found that they were able to stop treatment-resistant invasive lobular breast cancer cells from growing. Some of the cancer cells survived but were successfully killed when they used a combination of drugs. Professor O’Connor and his team are now testing the anti-Brd3 drugs, as well as the combination of drugs they devised further, as a starting point towards clinical trials in the future.

You are helping us to move a discovery that we made in the lab closer to the clinic.
Professor Darran O’Connor

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