Project details

Researcher: Dr Paul Mullan

Location: Queen's University Belfast

Project title: Finding new ways to treat aggressive forms of breast cancer

Key area: Treatment

The challenge

Triple-negative breast cancer is a type of the disease which can sometimes be more aggressive and has limited treatment options. We desperately need to find new treatments for triple-negative and other aggressive types of breast cancer to improve the chances of survival for people with the disease.

The science behind the project

Dr Paul Mullan has developed drugs which block a protein called ‘legumain’ (LGMN), which is known to be linked to the most aggressive breast cancers, such as ‘triple-negative’ breast cancer. He believes these ‘LGMN inhibitors’ could be developed into new drugs for breast cancer, so in this project, he aims to identify ‘markers’ which could indicate which breast tumours these drugs will work against.

In previous work funded by Breast Cancer Now, Dr Mullan has shown that a protein called TBX2 switches off a growth control gene called CST6 in some breast cancers. Because CST6 is a natural LGMN inhibitor, Dr Mullan thinks that such tumours are very dependent on LGMN to grow, and so should be susceptible to LGMN inhibitor drugs.

He will now find out more about how TBX2 switches off CST6, and why this makes cells sensitive to LGMN inhibitors. To do this, Dr Mullan will use a combination of breast cancer cells grown in the lab, and cells implanted into mice.

What difference will this project make?

Dr Mullan’s research could lead to new drugs for breast cancer, and in particular for aggressive types of the disease such as triple-negative breast cancer. This will provide much needed treatment options for these patients and improve their chances of survival.

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