Project details

Researcher: Dr Ali Roghanian 

Location: University of Southampton 

Project cost: £221,073

The challenge

More women survive breast cancer than ever before. But if breast cancer comes back after treatment and spreads to another part of the body, it can be controlled but not cured with current treatments.

Cancer’s resistance to treatment is the main reason someone’s breast cancer may return, spread, and become incurable. We need to understand how breast cancer becomes resistant to drugs and how we can stop this from happening.

The science behind the project

Breast tumours are made up of different kinds of cells, including cancer cells and healthy cells. Sometimes, dying breast cancer cells can trick nearby immune system cells to help the disease to grow, spread and resist treatment. This can result in the disease coming back, spreading to another part of the body and becoming incurable.

Ali aims to understand how breast cancer cells communicate with the nearby immune cells and how we can stop it. His earlier research found that a protein called LILRB3 might be involved in this.

Ali and his team are using samples donated by people with breast cancer and mouse models of the disease to test how LILRB3 is involved. Ali also aims to test a new type of drugs that block LILRB3 to see if they can improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy by blocking the interaction between breast cancer and immune cells.

What difference will this project make?

Ali hopes this new approach, when combined with the current treatments such as chemotherapy, could benefit a wide range of patients with various types of breast cancers. In particular it could help more aggressive and hard-to-treat cancers, such as triple negative breast cancer. 

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