Project details

Researcher: Dr Triona Ni Chonghaile

Location: Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin

Project title: Finding a potential new treatment for lobular breast cancer

Key area: Treatment

The challenge

Breast cancers that occur in the milk-producing lobes of the breast are called lobular breast cancer, and account for up to 15% of breast cancer cases. New treatment options for this type of breast cancer would give much-needed hope for women whose cancer stops responding to current drugs. Dr Ni Chonghaile’s team has previously found that lobular breast cancers with high levels of a molecule Brd3 are more likely to come back after treatment and the team wants to see if a small molecule called JQ1 could counteract Brd3 to stop lobular breast cancer from returning. JQ1 has already shown promise in stopping the growth of other cancers in the laboratory, including in triple-negative breast cancer.    

The science behind the project

In this project the team aims to fully understand the role of Brd3, and similar proteins Brd2 and Brd4, in lobular breast cancer cells. They will do this by “switching” each protein off in cancer cells grown in the laboratory and looking at the impact on cell growth and survival. 

They will then see if the drug JQ1, which is known to target the Brd proteins, has similar effects on lobular breast cancer cells as “switching off” these proteins, and therefore whether the drug is a potential treatment option for lobular breast cancer.

Finally, the team will treat mice with lobular breast cancer with JQ1 alone or combined with the anti-hormone drug tamoxifen, to see whether the drug can stop lobular breast cancer’s growth, either on its own or in combination with an existing treatment. 

What difference will this project make?

The project will show whether JQ1 is a potential new treatment for invasive lobular breast cancer, either alone or in combination with tamoxifen.

The results will also indicate whether any of the Brd proteins can be used to identify lobular breast cancer patients whose cancer is more likely to return and who may need more aggressive treatments.