Project details

Researcher: Dr Leo Carlin

Location: Beatson Insitute for Cancer Research

Project title: Understanding the role of neutrophils in secondary breast cancer in the lung

The challenge

When breast cancer spreads to the lung, it can be treated but cannot be cured. Treatment aims to control and slow down the spread of the cancer, relieve symptoms and give people the best quality of life for as long as possible. To support our 2050 aim that everyone diagnosed with cancer will live, we need research to understand what causes breast cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body and find new ways to prevent this from happening.

The science behind the project

The lungs are one of the most common areas that breast cancer can spread to. Leo and his team have recently uncovered that certain immune cells, called neutrophils, can help breast cancer to spread to the lungs.

However, they now need to understand exactly how, when and where neutrophils are involved in the spread of breast cancer cells.

First, researchers will look at how breast cancer progresses in mice and using advanced microscope techniques to study the lungs. The researchers will measure where neutrophils and other important immune cells are, and look at how they behave before and after breast cancer cells spread to the lungs.

The team will also use two breast cancer treatments, chemotherapy and immunotherapy on the mice to understand how these treatments change the way neutrophils and other immune cells act in the lungs. They hope that this will reveal how and when neutrophils are involved in the spread of breast cancer to the lungs and how we could stop it.

What difference will this project make?

This research could help us understand the role the body’s immune system plays in the spread of breast cancer cells to the lung. It could help ensure immunotherapies are given at the right time and in the right combination with other treatments, making breast cancer treatment as effective as possible. It will also help understand how, where and when neutrophils are involved in the spread of breast cancer to the lungs, uncovering new ways to prevent this from happening in the future.

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