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New and Improved treatments

Targeting the JNK Protein as a New Breast Cancer Treatment

Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Dr

David Croucher

Project Description: The JNK protein plays a complex role in breast cancer, acting to prevent cancer in normal tissue, but also promoting tumour metastasis in patients with breast cancer. This contradictory behaviour is poorly understood, but Dr David Croucher (Garvin Institute of Medical Research/ University of New South Wales) believes it can be controlled to help treat breast cancer.

Why this work is needed: Metastatic breast cancer, which is often seen in the triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) subtype, has one of the poorest survival outcomes. This is because 70% of patients with TNBC do not respond to standard chemotherapy. As such, new treatment drugs are desperately needed.

Expected outcomes: Using a novel technology platform, Dr Croucher and his team will be able to investigate the complex behaviour of the JNK protein in breast cancer. They believe a “scaffold protein”, which controls the activity of JNK, could be targeted with a drug to inhibit the growth of metastatic cancer cells. This could lead to a new medication option for women with TNBC breast cancer.

Project details

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) has the poorest 5-year survival rate of all breast cancers, with patients often experiencing relapse and metastases to the brain and lungs. Unfortunately, most patients with TNBC do not respond well to standard chemotherapy, meaning that new treatment options are needed.

A potential way of stopping TNBC would be to control a protein called JNK, which allows the spread of cancer. However, this protein is complex – it also has protective mechanisms in normal breast tissue. As such, a drug to control JNK’s action would need to be designed specifically to only target the negative effects and retain the positive.

Dr Croucher and his team have a unique technology platform which allows them to explore the various functions of the JNK protein, and work out how to control it in the most effective manner. They are working on the development of drugs to target the “scaffold protein” of JNK, which allows it to promote cancer spread.

This work could lead to a new treatment option for TNBC, preventing the growth of metastatic cells and improving outcomes for women with the condition.