Seeking kinder treatments for breast cancer
Dr Joaquín Arribas and his team hope to find new ways to treat breast cancer by targeting ‘senescent’ cancer cells – where the cells stop dividing but can still promote tumour growth in neighbouring cells.
Hope for the future
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the world and almost 700,000 people worldwide died of breast cancer in 2020. Research has shown that one of the reasons breast cancer treatment can be unsuccessful, is because ‘senescent cells’ accumulate – these cells stop dividing themselves but still encourage cancer growth in nearby cells.
Dr Arribas hopes to find a new way to identify and destroy senescent cells and that this will lead to better cures for breast cancer, with fewer side effects.
Meet the scientist
In his free time, Dr Arribas enjoys nature. He loves scuba diving and riding his mountain bike through the woods. He likes to take pictures and movies of animals and tries to understand their behaviour.
Cancer cells sometimes become senescent in response to cancer treatment. Although these cells stop dividing, they do not die and they can still communicate with neighbouring cells to encourage tumour growth. Dr Arribas and his team have been looking for new ways to help our immune system target senescent cells.
Until now it has been hard to identify a targetable Achilles Heel in senescent cells. If a cancer treatment also attacks non-senescent cells then it causes nasty side-effects, so finding a way to target only senescent cells would lead the way to kinder treatments.
Dr Arribas has recently managed to create a new mice model called SuSe mice which allows senescent cells to be identified much more accurately. Now Dr Arribas and his team plan to use this new model to better understand how senescent cells accumulate. They will investigate the effect of destroying senescent cells at different stages of breast cancer progression, and after different cancer treatments. The researchers hope this project will lead to exciting new therapies for breast cancer with fewer side-effects.
Funding from Worldwide Cancer Research gives me credibility as a researcher. The cancer research community is aware of the high standards that Worldwide Cancer Research applies to select the best proposals. It is a real pleasure to include the Worldwide Cancer Research logo in the acknowledgment slide of my scientific presentations.
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