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New and Improved treatments

Repurposing an Existing Therapy for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute Professor

Kum Kum Khanna

  • Project description: Professor Khanna and her team will assess the suitability of an existing drug, auranofin, in treating triple negative breast cancer (TNBC)
  • Why this work is needed: Triple negative breast cancer tumours are often aggressive and spread at a fast rate. In her preclinical studies, Professor Khanna will test if auranofin, alone or in combination with chemotherapy, could improve treatment outcomes for a subset of TNBC cases.
  • Expected outcomes: The research may provide the evidence required for proceeding to clinical trials of auranofin in TNBC. If these studies are successful, then because the drug has previously been approved by regulatory authorities, it will be a quicker and cheaper development and approval process, allowing for rapid translation into clinical practice.

Project details
Triple negative breast cancers (TNBCs) are present in up to 20% of breast cancer patients. Unfortunately, TNBC tumours are often aggressive and fast-growing. One gene, called TP53, has been found to be mutated in over 85% of patients with TNBC. Directly targeting mutated TP53, as part of an integrated treatment approach could improve outcomes for these patients.

In this NBCF-funded study, Professor Kum Kum Khanna and her team will repurpose an existing drug to investigate its efficacy against cancers with the mutant TP53 gene. The drug, called auranofin, is currently used in the treatment of inflammatory and rheumatoid arthritis. Auranofin is also currently being investigated as a possible treatment for neurodegenerative disorders, HIV/AIDS and bacterial infections.

Professor Khanna’s study will test auranofin in combination with standard chemotherapy drugs in a model of mutant TP53 TNBC cancer. The research will be conducted over the course of three years and holds promise for rapid translation into the clinic as the drug has previously been approved by the FDA in the US and has minimal side effects. The other advantage with “re-purposing” drugs such auranofin is that the timeline and cost to take the drug through clinical trials will be far less, providing a quicker, cheaper alternative than a completely new drug.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute Professor

Kum Kum Khanna