Project details

Researcher: Professor Alison Gartland

Location: University of Sheffield

Project title:  Understanding how to stop breast cancer spreading to the bones

Key area: Secondary breast cancer

The challenge

Secondary breast cancer, when breast cancer has spread from the breast, causes almost all deaths from breast cancer. One of the common sites for breast cancer to spread to is the bones, so understanding cancer’s spread to the bones and how to stop it is vital work that could save lives. Professor Gartland and colleagues have already discovered one part of the complex process of breast cancer’s spread to the bone, involving the molecule LOX, and will now build on this knowledge by understanding how the molecule P2X7R interacts with LOX.

The science behind the project

Professor Gartland’s team have shown, with Breast Cancer Now funding, that a molecule called lysyl oxidase (LOX) makes holes in the bone and prepares bones for the arrival of spreading breast cancer cells.

The researchers will now investigate how another molecule, P2X7R, may help LOX to enable the spread of cancer. They will do this by creating a complex model of cells containing LOX and P2X7R in the lab to look at their interactions.

The researchers will then test, in mice, whether P2X7R can be targeted with drugs to stop breast cancer spreading to the bone.

What difference will this project make?

Drugs that target P2X7R have already been shown to be safe in humans in clinical trials for arthritis, and this project could show whether they have potential for use in stopping breast cancer from spreading to the bone.

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