The Breast Cancer Now Catalyst Programme

To achieve our aim that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live and be supported to live well, we need to speed up the translation of research in the lab into new and effective treatments for patients. We’re bringing together leading researchers and top pharmaceutical companies to pool ideas and resources and ultimately stop people dying from breast cancer.

As part of the Breast Cancer Now Catalyst Programme, we have collaborated with leading pharmaceutical company Pfizer to give researchers unprecedented access to a number of Pfizer’s licensed and investigative drugs as well as vital funding for researchers to test these drugs. This allows us to combine the expertise of our researchers with Pfizer’s compounds and deliver new treatments to patients more quickly.

Project details

Researcher: Professor Valerie Brunton

Location: University of Edinburgh

The challenge

Every year in the UK around 11,500 people die of breast cancer. Many of them will have seen their cancer progress or come back after it stopped responding to existing drugs. Finding new treatments to use when existing drugs stop working is vital to give people more time to live. One way to achieve this is to test drugs we already have for other cancers and other diseases.

Bosutinib is a drug used to treat leukaemia. It has been tested in patients with breast cancer before but only worked for some. Currently, it is not possible to tell whose breast cancer will respond to bosutinib, so we need to find ways to identify patients who could benefit from this drug.

Drug: Bosutinib

  • Blocks the activity of proteins called Src and Abl to stop cancer cells growing.
  • Currently used to treat a type of chronic myeloid leukaemia.

The science behind the project

Bosutinib works by blocking proteins called Src and Abl, which can help breast cancer to grow. However, in some people Abl is needed to stop cancer growth. Professor Valerie Brunton’s team believe this could be the reason why bosutinib doesn’t work for all breast cancer patients. Therefore, Valerie’s team are working out how to tell whether Abl is having a helpful or harmful role in breast cancers. They also want to find out whether this information can help to predict which cancers will respond to bosutinib. To answer these questions, researcher are using breast cancer cells grown in the lab and mice models of breast cancer. Their goal is to find a test that shows which patients could benefit from taking bosutinib.

What difference will this project make?

If the project successfully finds a way to tell who could benefit from bosutinib this will help guide new clinical trials. This could ultimately lead to bosutinib being introduced as a new and effective treatment option for some people with breast cancer. 

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* Pfizer has provided funding and Pfizer compounds for this research study as an Independent Medical Research grant as part of the Breast Cancer Now Catalyst Programme. Pfizer has no other involvement in this research study.