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New and Improved treatments

New Treatment for Metastatic Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Garvan Institute of Medical Research Dr

Sharissa Latham

Project Description: Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive form of disease, which accounts for up to 1 in 5 cases. Current chemotherapy options are often unsuccessful at completely stopping TNBC for up to 70% of women. Hence patients with TNBC are at increased risk of relapse with metastasis (cancer spread). At present, there are no drugs that specifically target metastatic TNBC, and new treatments for this breast cancer subtype are urgently needed. 

Why This Work is Needed: Many of the previously proposed treatments for metastatic TNBC aim to stop the initial spread of cancer cells. Unfortunately, this initial spread has already occurred by the time that most TNBC tumours are diagnosed, making it too late for the drugs to work. To overcome this, this project aims to develop a world-first drug capable of preventing TNBC relapse by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells that have already spread. 

Expected Outcomes: This study aims to develop a new drug, called K12, into the first-ever clinically and commercially viable drug to inhibit the growth of TNBC cancer cells that have already metastasised. The drug works by targeting a protein needed for the metastatic growth of TNBC, called oncogenic (cancer-causing) JNK. If successful, the development of this drug would have a major impact on the treatment and outcomes of patients with TNBC. 

Project Details

Dr Sharissa Latham, from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research who will lead this project, was also awarded the NBCF Mavis Robertson Fellowship for showing great promise as a future leader in breast cancer research. Her team has identified a drug that can inhibit a cellular pathway called oncogenic JNK. This signaling pathway is not found in normal healthy tissue, but is highly activated in TNBC tumours and is vital for the growth of metastatic TNBC cancer cells. By inhibiting oncogenic JNK signalling with the new drug, known as K12, the researchers believe they will be able to slow the growth of metastatic cells. 

This project will help Dr Latham and her team take K12 through the next stage of preclinical drug development and evaluation, which is crucial prior to further clinical testing and commercialisation. The team have already synthesised a comprehensive library of K12-derivative drugs to trial in the study and are hopeful this will lead in time to a clinically-viable drug to treat metastatic TNBC, providing a new treatment option for this breast cancer subtype.  

Garvan Institute of Medical Research Dr

Sharissa Latham