Predicting which cases of DCIS will progress to invasive breast cancer using the extracellular matrix

Project details

Researcher: Dr Paul Huang

Location: The Institute of Cancer Research, London

Project title: Predicting which cases of DCIS will progress to invasive breast cancer using the extracellular matrix

Key area: Detection and diagnosis

The challenge

Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive form of breast cancer. It is estimated that up to 50% of DCIS cases will develop into invasive breast cancer if left untreated – however, it is currently not possible to predict which DCIS cases will progress to invasive breast cancer. Therefore, we need ways to predict this in order to direct treatments to those who will benefit the most.

Project description

Cells in the body are surrounded by a scaffold-like structure made up of many different proteins, known as the ‘extracellular matrix’, or ECM. Dr Huang believes that the ECM surrounding the cells in DCIS tumours could hold clues as to whether DCIS is likely to progress into invasive breast cancer.

Dr Huang will first identify the proteins that surround DCIS tumours that grow when DCIS cells are implanted into mice, using a technique called ‘mass spectrometry’. Proteins identified will then be studied further to see whether they control the ability of DCIS tumours to grow and become invasive breast cancer. Finally he will measure these proteins in DCIS samples from the Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank, to understand whether they could be used to predict which DCIS tumours will progress.

What difference will this project make?

Dr Huang will find protein ‘markers’ which could be used to predict how likely a person’s DCIS is to progress into invasive breast cancer. This would help doctors to decide upon the most appropriate treatments for each individual with DCIS. His research could also identify new ways to treat DCIS and breast cancer, improving patients’ chances of survival.

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