Researcher: Professor Spiros Linardopoulos
Location: The Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre, London
Project title: Drug Target Discovery team
Key area: Treatment
Although effective treatments exist for breast cancer, there are many patients for whom these drugs don’t work or stop working over time. We need to develop the next generation of targeted drugs to ensure that all patients receive the best possible treatment.
Prof Linardopoulos and his team are taking advances in our understanding of the genetic and molecular weaknesses of breast cancer to guide the design of new targeted treatments. The key focus of the team is to develop new drugs that target proteins involved in cell division, as they are often overactive in breast cancer.
Working closely with the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the Institute of Cancer Research, the team is translating its laboratory findings directly into the design and development of new drug molecules specifically targeted towards weaknesses in breast cancer cells.
How will the team achieve this?
A protein called MPS1 is overactive in cancer cells and causes uncontrolled cell growth and division. The team aims to develop new drug molecules that specifically target MPS1 and identify biomarkers that can be used to predict which patients would respond well to treatment with the drug.
Cancer cells undergo a different process during cell division compared to healthy cells. The team is trying to identify proteins that are specific to cancer cell division and design new drugs that target these proteins – effectively shutting down the multiplication of cancer cells.
A prominent feature of cancer cells is that they carry more chromosomes than normal cells. This feature makes cancer cells stand out and Prof Linardopoulos team is working out how this could be used as a target for cancer treatment.
Switching off a gene called PFKFB2 has been shown to be a potential method for treating breast cancer. The team is trying to further understand the role this gene plays in breast cancer in order to design new targeted drugs.
What difference will this project make?
Prof Linardopoulos and his team’s work will ultimately lead to the design and development of new targeted drugs for breast cancer that could be trialed in breast cancer patients and provide the next generation of breast cancer treatments.
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