samples in a lab

Project details

Researcher: Dr Anna Git

Location: University of Cambridge

Project title: Understanding the role of mid-sized non-coding RNAs in ER-positive breast cancer

Key area: Treatment

The challenge

Up to 80% of breast cancers are ‘ER-positive’, which means that their growth is driven by the hormone oestrogen. However, some ER-positive breast tumours will become resistant to the anti-hormone drugs used to treat them. We need to find new ways to treat ER-positive breast cancer and stop tumours becoming resistant, and give people with the most common form of the disease the best possible chance of survival.

The science behind the project

Molecules inside the cell called “non-coding RNAs”, or ncRNAs, have a lot of different jobs and come in a range of sizes; for example, long ncRNAs, microRNAs, and mid-sized RNAs. 

For a long time, many scientists believed that mid-sized ncRNAs were boring molecules, that they performed essential but straightforward tasks inside the cell. However, Dr Anna Git and others now think that mid-sized ncRNAs could have an important role to play in breast cancer, affecting how breast cancer cells behave and multiply. 

Dr Git will carry out a detailed study into how mid-sized ncRNAs are involved in oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer. She will first identify which mid-sized ncRNAs are produced in a range of breast cancer cells. Dr Git will then investigate what happens when the amounts of these different ncRNAs are increased or decreased in breast cancer cells. She will also study samples of over 1,300 breast tumours donated by patients, to better understand how mid-sized ncRNAs are involved in the development of the disease. 

What difference will this project make?

This project will be the first of its kind to study in detail the role of mid-sized non-coding RNAs in breast cancer, and so could open up a new area of research to better understand the disease. Ultimately, Dr Git’s research could lead to new ways to treat ER-positive breast cancer and help give patients the best possible chance of survival.