Understanding how micro-RNAs control the initiation of breast cancer spread

Project details

Researcher: Dr Ernesto Yagüe

Location: Imperial College London

Project title: Understanding how micro-RNAs control the initiation of breast cancer spread

Key area: Secondary breast cancer

The challenge

When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it can sometimes be controlled for a while but sadly cannot be cured. We need to understand how breast cancer cells start to invade into the surrounding tissue, in order to stop breast cancer spreading and help improve the chances of survival for people with the disease.

Project description

When a protein called ‘E-cadherin’ stops being produced in breast cancer cells, the cells can invade and migrate, and become resistant to treatments. Scientists are interested in how the production of E-cadherin is controlled, and what might stop the production of this protein. Dr Ernesto Yagüe has discovered that a group of molecules called ‘micro-RNAs’ (miRNAs) may indirectly reduce the production of E-cadherin.

In this project, Dr Yagüe will first confirm which of these miRNAs can reduce E-cadherin production, and how they do this, using breast cancer cells and healthy cells grown in the lab. He will study whether these miRNAs make cells more likely to migrate and become resistant to chemotherapy drugs. Dr Yagüe will measure the amounts of these miRNAs and E-cadherin in samples of tumours donated to the Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank, to see whether the miRNAs reduce E cadherin in real tumours from patients.

What difference will this project make?

Dr Yagüe’s research will help to understand how breast cancer cells are able to start spreading through the body. His research could ultimately lead to new ways to test whether a breast tumour is likely to spread, and could help doctors plan treatments more effectively, improving the chances of survival for people with breast cancer.

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