Dr Mark Morgan

Dr Mark Morgan (Credit: AB Photography) 

Project details

Researcher: Dr Mark Morgan

Location: University of Liverpool

Project title: Identifying key molecules involved in the growth and invasion of HER2-positive breast cancer

Key area: Treatment

The challenge

HER2 is a molecule that is overproduced in about 20% of breast tumours. Herceptin is a drug that blocks HER2 and is used to treat HER2-positive breast cancer, but sometimes breast cancer cells can become resistant to it. We need to understand how HER2 works in order to prevent or reverse drug resistance, and so improve the chances of survival for people with this form of breast cancer.

The science behind the project

HER2 helps breast cancer cells to multiply and invade into surrounding tissue, but HER2 can be blocked using a drug called Herceptin. Recent research funded by Breast Cancer Now has shown that another molecule called ‘alpha-V beta-6 integrin’ (αVβ6) also drives breast cancer invasion, and that blocking both HER2 and αVβ6 can slow down the growth of breast cancers even more than Herceptin alone.

In this project, Dr Morgan hopes to understand the complex relationship between HER2 and αvβ6, and how they work together and communicate with each other. Using cutting edge techniques, he will investigate how other molecules control αVβ6 and HER2 function.

Finally, to test how all these molecules help the growth and invasion of breast cancer, Dr Morgan will study how removing them affects breast cancer cells grown in the lab. He will also investigate how these molecules control the ability of breast cancer cells implanted into zebrafish embryos to invade into their surrounding environment following different drug treatments.

What difference will this project make?

Dr Morgan’s research will clarify the complex interaction between HER2 and αvβ6, and how they work together to drive the growth of breast cancer. His research could lead to new ways to treat HER2-positive breast tumours and ultimately save lives.

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