Dr Stephen Tait (far right) with his team
Survival rates for breast cancer have significantly improved in recent years however the prospects for around 15% of patients with triple negative breast cancer remain worse than for others. This type of breast cancer is particularly aggressive and treatment options are limited. It is essential that we understand how and why triple negative breast cancer forms and develop effective new ways to treat it.
The protein MCL-1 is likely to have a role in the development of breast cancer and promoting cancer cell survival. Increased levels of MCL-1 have been discovered in breast cancer samples and are linked to poor patient outcomes, particularly for those with triple negative breast cancer. The presence of MCL-1 is also thought to reduce the ability of chemotherapy drugs to kill cancer cells.
Dr Tait will use human breast cancer cells as well as mice to investigate whether MCL-1 is involved in the initiation of breast cancer development and if reducing the levels of MCL-1 can prevent or delay cancer formation. The team will also study whether drugs can be used to block the pro-cancer effects of MCL-1 and will find out if targeting MCL-1 alongside current cancer therapies can improve a patient’s chance of survival.
What difference will this project make?
Dr Tait’s research will help us to expand our understanding of triple negative breast cancer by establishing whether MCL-1 is a key factor in the formation of tumours. This work could lead to the development of new drugs that target the MCL-1 protein to block its pro-cancer effects and enhance the effect of current treatments. Ultimately, this could lead to a much needed improvement in survival for patients with triple negative breast cancer.
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