Patients with certain aggressive types of breast cancer have a poor prognosis, partly because there are no targeted therapies that can be used to treat them effectively. Therefore it is vital scientists develop new treatments for aggressive breast cancers, which will ultimately improve the chances of survival for these patients.
A normal activity within cells, called the c Kit signalling pathway, is thought to be overactivated in an aggressive type of breast cancer called basal-like breast cancer, and may help these breast cancer cells survive. The cause of this overactivation in basal-like breast cancer is believed to be the overproduction of a protein called Lyn. Dr Matthew Smalley thinks that drugs that work against Lyn could stop basal-like breast cancer cells from growing out of control.
First he aims to confirm that Lyn is the key component in the c Kit pathway that helps breast cancer cells to multiply and survive, and find out how Lyn itself is controlled. Dr Smalley will then investigate precisely how Lyn keeps breast cancer cells alive, and how Lyn and the c Kit pathway interact with the protein BRCA1, which plays an important role in breast cancer. Finally, he will determine whether drugs that stop Lyn from working could be used to treat basal like breast cancers and breast cancers with a faulty BRCA1 gene.
What difference will this project make?
There are currently no targeted treatments available for the aggressive basal-like breast cancer. Dr Smalley aims to demonstrate that drugs working against Lyn could be used as a treatment for this type of breast cancer. A new and effective treatment of this kind would be life-changing for patients with aggressive breast cancers, increasing their chances of survival and quality of life.
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