Up to 20% of breast cancers overproduce a protein called HER2, and are called ‘HER2-positive’. Despite targeted treatments such as Herceptin, some women with HER-positive breast cancer still see their disease spread to other parts of the body, where it can’t be cured. It is therefore essential that we find new treatments for HER2-positive breast cancer to improve chances of survival.
For the HER2 protein to stimulate the growth and spread of breast tumours, it needs to be on the surface of the cell. Another molecule called WASH is essential for delivering HER2 to the cell surface. Dr Zech believes that drugs which block WASH could provide new treatments to stop the spread of HER2-positive breast cancer. In this project, Dr Zech will investigate how WASH delivers HER2 to the surface of breast cancer cells. He will also investigate whether blocking WASH could make an effective breast cancer treatment, using mice that develop HER2-positive breast cancer. Finally, Dr Zech will also study whether the presence of WASH could predict the chances of survival for people with HER2-positive breast cancer, using samples of breast tumours from the Tissue Bank.
What difference will this project make?
Dr Zech aims to learn more about WASH and how it is involved in HER2 positive breast cancer. His research could lead to new drugs which block WASH to treat HER2-positive breast cancer, ultimately improving the chances of survival for the 10,000 women diagnosed with this form of the disease each year.
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