Dr Robert Clarke
Secondary breast cancer – when the cancer spreads and tumours develop elsewhere in the body – cuts short the lives of around 1,000 women and men each month in the UK. There is still so much we need to know about how breast cancer cells escape from the original breast tumour, enter the blood stream and manage to seed new tumours in places such as the bone, lungs and brain. Understanding the intricate cellular processes that contribute to these events will lead the way to preventing and controlling secondary breast cancer.
The way in which cancer cells interact with normal cells is now established as an important factor that can influence the progression of breast cancer. Dr Robert Clarke’s lab focuses on how certain cells called breast cancer stem cells provide support and signals to the tumour that allow it to grow. Investigating these tumour-supporting signals will allow the design of strategies to block these pathways and slow tumour progression.
Breast cancer stem cells are also thought to play a major role in the return of breast cancer after treatment and the seeding of secondary tumours throughout the body. Dr Clarke and his team are trying to work out how these cells interact with other tissues in the body, such as the bone, to allow them to seed a new tumour. Armed with this new information they plan to identify ways to eradicate breast cancer stem cells and prevent the development of secondary breast cancer.
What difference will this project make?
Secondary breast cancer is not yet curable and so is an area in vital need of research. Dr Clarke and his team’s research will lead to a greater understanding of the role played by breast cancer stem cells and identify new avenues for the development of treatments to prevent secondary breast cancer.
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