Understanding how the response to hypoxia is controlled

Project details

Researcher: Professor Adrian Harris

Location: University of Oxford

Project title: Understanding how the response to hypoxia is controlled

Key area: Treatment

The challenge

Some breast cancers can be more aggressive than others, and become resistant to treatments. We need to understand what makes some breast tumours more aggressive than others, in order to find the best treatments to improve the chances of survival for people with breast cancer.

The science behind the project

Areas inside breast tumours that lack oxygen, a state called ‘hypoxia’, can make breast cancer cells in these tumours more likely to be aggressive and become resistant to treatments. This response to hypoxia is mostly controlled by two proteins, ‘HIF1’ and ‘HIF2’. A lot is known about what HIF1 does, but the role of HIF2 in breast cancer is less well understood.

Professor Harris has recently found a new role for HIF2 – it instructs the cell to make a molecule called NEAT1, which in turn could change the way a breast cancer cell behaves. In this project, Professor Harris will be studying HIF2 and NEAT1 further. By using breast cancer cells grown in the lab and implanted into mice, he hopes to find what NEAT1 is doing and how it makes breast cancer cells more aggressive and more likely to spread.

What difference will this project make?

Professor Harris will help to understand more precisely how hypoxia makes breast cancer cells more aggressive. His research will identify new ways to classify breast cancer, and potentially new targets for drugs, so that patients can receive the most appropriate treatments to give them the best possible chance of survival.

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