Project details

Researcher: Dr Sacha Howell

Location: University of Manchester

Project title: Studying whether ulipristal acetate can be used for breast cancer chemoprevention

Key area: Prevention

The challenge

Women who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer may be able to take chemoprevention drugs to reduce their risk. However, these drugs only prevent a third of breast cancers, the side effects can be harsh, and there’s only one drug available for pre-menopausal women. We need to find alternative chemoprevention drugs to provide options for as many women with an increased risk of breast cancer as possible.

Project description

Current chemoprevention drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene prevent oestrogen driving the growth of breast tumours. However, research has found that the hormone progesterone is also involved in the development of breast cancer.

Dr Howell will investigate whether a drug called ulipristal acetate (UA), which blocks the activity of progesterone, could be used as a chemoprevention treatment. UA is currently used to treat uterine fibroids (benign tumours of the uterus), so if it is found to be effective it could be made available for chemoprevention quicker than new drugs.

He will recruit 30 pre-menopausal women at increased risk of breast cancer to take UA for 12 weeks, with breast imaging and small samples of their breast tissue taken before and after treatment. This will enable Dr Howell to study what effect UA has on the cells of the breast.

What difference will this project make?

Dr Howell’s research will help to determine whether ulipristal acetate (UA) could be used as a chemoprevention drug, and for which specific group of high risk women it would be most effective. His work could provide pre-menopausal women with another option to reduce their chance of developing the disease.

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