Investigating new ways to identify patients likely to develop drug resistance

Project details

Researcher: Dr Jean Christophe Bourdon

Location: University of Dundee

Project title: Investigating new ways to identify patients likely to develop drug resistance

Key area: Treatment

The challenge

People with certain aggressive types of breast cancer, such as triple negative, have limited treatment options. In addition, these breast tumours can become resistant to the few drugs that can be used to treat them, but it is difficult to predict which patients this will happen to. Therefore it is vital scientists find out why breast tumours sometimes become drug-resistant. Ultimately, this will provide better treatments tailored to individual patients, and potentially help scientists find ways of avoiding drug resistance altogether.

Project description

An important protein called p53 usually acts to prevent cancer and is the most frequently mutated gene in many cancers, including breast tumours. Although p53 mutations are associated with poor prognosis in breast cancer, it has been difficult to predict how patients will respond to cancer treatment based on their p53 mutations. Dr Bourdon was the first to identify different versions, or isoforms, of p53 in different types of breast cancer, and that they might dictate how tumours respond to chemotherapy drugs.

During his Breast Cancer Now scientific fellowship, Dr Bourdon will investigate the effect that different p53 isoforms have on cells from certain types of breast tumours, known as triple negative and luminal breast cancer. He will investigate how the different p53 isoforms influence the way breast cancer cells multiply, survive, migrate and spread, and how they make the cells more resistant or sensitive to chemotherapy drugs. Dr Bourdon will then look more closely at how p53 isoforms could be used to predict how a cancer might respond to treatment, by measuring the different p53 isoforms in 1,500 breast tumour samples.

What difference will this project make?

Breast cancers can develop resistance to drugs, reducing the treatment options available to patients. Dr Bourdon aims to find out whether measuring the different p53 isoforms produced in a patient’s breast tumour could be used to predict how that tumour might respond to different cancer treatments. This will enable clinicians to make better decisions about treatments for individual patients, and may even help scientists to reverse drug resistance, or stop it from developing in the first place.

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