Project details

Researcher: Professor Dylan Edwards

Location: University of East Anglia

Project title: Understanding how the immune system could stop breast cancer spread

Key area: Secondary breast cancer

The challenge

One of the most important defences that our bodies have against disease is our immune system. The white blood cells of our immune systems can be activated to recognise and attack cancer cells, however one of the tricks that cancers use to help them grow and spread is to switch off this immune system response. If we could better understand how cancer interacts with our immune system we might be able to reverse this so that our immune system attacks cancer.

The science behind the project

Professor Edwards has previously found that a molecule called MMP8 can prevent tumour growth and spread, and cancer cells with this molecule on them grow less aggressively. He wants to see whether this effect of MMP8 is due to it working with another molecule called TGF-beta, which can tell the immune system to produce white blood cells that recognise and attack cancer. Because Prof Edwards and team need to investigate the complexities of a reactive immune system their research will involve mouse experiments.

What difference will this project make?

The project will provide valuable basic knowledge of how our immune systems are involved in the development and spread of breast cancer, which could lead to new approaches to harnessing the immune system to destroy cancer.

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