Breast cancer is not one, but a collection of diverse and overlapping diseases. Around 15% of all breast cancers are classed as triple negative. It means they lack certain molecules, which are present in other breast cancers and can be targeted with treatments. Thus, these cancers may be harder to treat. Also, some breast cancers may not respond well to existing treatments, meaning they can come back and spread to other parts of the body. We need to find new, smarter ways to treat these cancers.
Professor Tutt's team ultimately aims to design smarter, kinder and more effective ways of treating breast cancers. They are especially interested in BRCA-mutated and triple negative forms of the disease.
The researchers are also investigating why some tumours are treated effectively, whilst others, either don’t respond from the start, or after an initial response to treatment, come back and resist it.
As part of this project, Professor Tutt wants to understand how best to treat breast cancers with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. Mutations in BRCA genes can increase the chances of breast cancer developing, but they also bring about changes in the cell that can be targeted with drugs.
How will the team achieve this?
To achieve their goal of designing new treatments for harder to treat forms of breast cancer, the researchers are focused on understanding how certain genes can make these cancers harder to treat. Professor Tutt believes this information can help us find ways to treat the disease without harming healthy cells and bringing about severe side effects.
The researchers are looking at what genes and molecules are most important for these types of cancers to survive, and finding ways to block them.
Professor Tutt, as both a researcher and a clinician, is in an excellent position to efficiently bring laboratory findings into clinics to benefit breast cancer patients.
What difference will this project make?
Professor Tutt is a world-leading researcher in the field of triple negative breast cancer. His discoveries of weaknesses in breast cancer cells that could be targeted with new treatments, could completely change how breast cancer is treated in the future. Working together with other researchers at the Research Centre, his team is already developing drugs to block newly discovered targets. These discoveries are taking us a step closer to achieving our goal that by 2050 everyone diagnosed with breast cancer will live, and receive the support they need to live well.