Dr Alan McIntyre and his team in the lab

Dr McIntyre (centre) and his team

Project details

Researcher: Dr Alan McIntyre

Location: University of Nottingham

Project title: Investigating a potential drug target to treat secondary breast cancer

Key area: Secondary breast cancer

Dr Alan McIntyre is studying how a group of proteins called ‘sodium-driven bicarbonate co transporters’ help breast cancer cells invade and migrate throughout the body. His research could lead to ways to prevent and control secondary breast cancer.

The challenge

When breast cancer spreads it sadly becomes incurable, so we desperately need to find ways to stop breast cancer spreading in order to stop people dying from the disease.

The science behind the project

Many breast tumours grow rapidly and don’t have an adequate blood supply, and as a result have regions inside them that lack oxygen, a condition known as ‘hypoxia’. Tumours like this tend to be more aggressive and likely to spread throughout the body. However, these regions also tend to be acidic, and if they become too acidic the cells will die. To combat this acidity breast cancer cells produce proteins called ‘sodium driven bicarbonate co-transporters’, also known as NDBTs, to help neutralise the acidic conditions.

Researchers have found that proteins like the NDBTs that combat acidity can sometimes help tumours spread, so Dr McIntyre thinks that blocking these NDBTs could help to stop this from happening. In this project, he will be studying the role of NDBTs in cancer cell invasion in more detail, to understand more precisely how NDBTs help breast cancer cells to migrate. Dr McIntyre will be testing whether reducing the production of NDBTs or blocking them with a drug reduces the movement of breast cancer cells in the lab, and the spread of breast cancer in mice.

What difference will this project make?

Dr McIntyre’s work will reveal the role of NDBTs in the spread of breast cancer, and whether blocking NDBTs could make a treatment to prevent and control the spread of breast cancer throughout the body. Ultimately, his research could lead to new ways to treat breast cancer, and improve the chances of survival for people living with the disease.

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