Dr Karen Blyth in the lab
Whilst breast cancer survival rates have improved over the last few decades, thousands of people are still dying from the disease every year. We need to understand better how cells become cancerous in order to find new treatments and improve the ones we already have, to give everyone with breast cancer the best possible chance of survival.
The science behind the project
Dr Karen Blyth has recently found that in mice prone to developing breast tumours, a loss of a protein called ‘RUNX1’ could make breast tumours form quicker. Other researchers have also found that mutations which cause a lack of RUNX1 are relatively common in ER-positive breast cancer, suggesting that RUNX1 protects against this form of the disease.
However, in other types of breast cancer such as triple-negative, RUNX1 actually promotes the development of the disease, and makes these types more aggressive. Therefore, it is clear that RUNX1 has different roles in different types of breast cancer.
In this project, Dr Blyth will investigate in more detail how RUNX1 prevents the development of breast cancer, by studying a special breed of mouse which cannot produce RUNX1 in the mammary gland. This will help her to understand how a lack of RUNX1 affects the types of cells that develop in the mammary gland, and whether they’re more likely to become cancerous.
What difference will this project make?
RUNX1 appears to both protect against and promote the development of breast cancer, depending on the type of the disease. Dr Blyth’s research will help us better understand the role of RUNX1 in breast cancer, and so could help researchers develop treatments that encourage RUNX1 to protect against breast cancer rather than promote it – improving the chances of survival for people with disease.