Project details

Researcher: Dr J. Ross Chapman

Location: University of Oxford

Project cost: £224,985

The challenge

As we learn more about breast cancer, we are finding new ways to treat it based on weaknesses found in cancer cells. Around 10% of breast tumours have extra copies of a section of DNA called 17q23. This type of breast cancer is linked to higher rates of recurrence, and so can be more difficult to treat.  We need to find better ways to treat this type of breast cancer and understand if the same treatment could also work for other types This will improve survival and quality of life for people with breast cancer. 

The science behind the project

Dr Ross Chapman from the University of Oxford is researching what advantages breast cancer cells gain by making an extra piece of the DNA section called 17q23.

Ross and his team recently discovered that breast cancer cells with this change make high amounts of a protein called TRIM37. This causes breast cancer cells to make more mistakes in their DNA as they grow, revealing a weakness in these cancer cells.

Ross has found that these cells can be destroyed with drugs called PLK inhibitors. However, we need to learn more about how PLK4 inhibitors work before they can be used to treat people with breast cancer.

In this project, the researchers are studying breast cancer cells in the lab to better understand what happens when they are treated with PLK4 inhibitors. They are also looking for ways that the cancer cells may become resistant to these drugs. This will provide more detailed information on who could benefit most from this potential new treatment.

Ross and his team are also testing PLK4 inhibitor drugs in breast cancer cells with other changes, to reveal a wider pool of patients who could benefit. 

What difference will this project make?

Ross wants this research to improve the survival and quality of life of people with breast cancer. The results from this project will help us understand and potentially expand the groups of people that are likely to benefit most from PLK4 inhibitor drugs. We hope these results will bring a promising new treatment closer to people with breast cancer.

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