Project details

Researcher: Dr Ahmet Ucar

Location: University of Manchester

Project title: Understanding the role of P-Rex1 and Rac1b in breast cancer 

Key area: Treatment

The challenge

Many scientists now believe that the key to how some breast cancers evade treatment, come back, spread around the body and so become deadly is a group of cells in a tumour called breast cancer stem cells. 

Breast cancer stem cells seem to be able to avoid treatment and go on to seed new tumours. Over recent years, there has been a significant effort to better understand, target and destroy these cells in the laboratory as this could lead to the development of treatments that kill the 'roots of the weed' in breast cancer tumours. 

The science behind the project

In previous work funded by Breast Cancer Now, Dr Ucar and colleagues found that two proteins called P-Rex1 and Rac1b have important functions in breast cancer stem cells and, in the laboratory, breast cancer stem cells from the most common types of breast cancer could be killed by 'turning off' production of these proteins.

To move this work a step closer to targeting breast cancer stem cells in patients, Dr Ucar will now use his Fellowship to work out what role these proteins play in the normal development of the mammary glands in mice, whether they are involved in tumour growth and, finally, whether stopping these proteins from being made in mice specifically stops the growth of breast cancer stem cells. 

What difference will this project make?

Overall the results of Dr Ucar’s Fellowship will reveal whether P-Rex1 and Rac1b could be targets for drugs to stop the growth and survival of breast cancer stem cells without major side effects. Ultimately, this work could lead to the development of new treatments that eliminate breast cancer stem cells and so save lives. 

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