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How can breast cancer be stopped from coming back?

Researcher
Dr Sirio Dupont
Project period
Apr 2021 - Apr 2024
Country
Research Institute
University of Padova
Cancer types
Breast cancer
Award amount
£231,250

Project aim

Dr Sirio Dupont and his team are trying to identify ways to kill dormant breast cancer cells which may remain after successful treatment.

Hope for the future

Breast cancer affects more than 55,000 people each year in the UK. Almost 9 in 10 people diagnosed with breast cancer now survive for 5 years or longer. But in some people cancer cells can lay dormant and wake up several years after seemingly successful treatment.

Dr Dupont and his team are now investigating how these dormant cancer cells stay alive. By understanding how to kill the hidden cancer cells the team hopes to find ways to prevent breast cancer from coming back.

 

Meet the scientist

Outside the lab, Dr Sirio Dupont loves to spend time with his family: “I am the happy father of one daughter and two sons. When I get home in the evening, it’s a competition between who asks for statistical analysis of data, who shows me the latest magic tricks, and the toddler asking to play and jumping on me.” When there is any spare time left, Dr Dupont enjoys DIY-ing, rock climbing, watching Scandinavian thrillers and reading books by the English writer Jonathan Coe.

The science

Breast cancer patients, depending on the type and stage of their cancer, might receive surgery to remove the breast cancer, followed by treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy to kill off any cancer cells that might have spread to other organs. But sometimes cancer cells can spread to other organs and rather than growing into tumours, they lie dormant – potentially for years or even decades. At some point these cancer cells can wake up again, start growing and form a new tumour.

A lot of research has focused on ways to keeping these rogue cancer cells asleep, but Dr Sirio Dupont and his team think that killing these cells is the better option. After migrating to a new organ, cancer cells find themselves in a new environment, with new neighbouring cells. Research from Dr Dupont’s team shows that cancer cells change their food supply to adapt to their new surroundings. The team is now trying to better understand and block these food supply chains to kill the dormant cancer cells before they can form a second tumour.

Basic science is the key. With a football analogy, you can pay the most expensive coaches and have the most updated training facilities, but if you don’t scout for young promising talents you will hardly find the next Maradona.
Dr Sirio Dupont

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