A new approach to targeting breast cancer recurrence

Start Year: 2011
Finish Year: 2016
Chief Investigator: Professor Erik Thompson
Grant Type: Collaborative Grants

National Collaborative Breast Cancer Research Program Grant

Tumour cells from cancer in the breast are able to spread around the body, lodge in different tissues (metastasis) and, despite hormonal or chemotherapy, lie dormant until clinically detectable as a recurrence. The survival of these cells in new environments is paramount to breast cancer recurrence and mortality. Epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity (EMP), which fosters cell movement during development, is a newly recognised process in cancer metastasis. The primary goal of EMPathy Breast Cancer Network (EMPathy BCN), an initiative launched in Australia to systematically investigate EMP in breast cancer, is to develop therapeutics targeting breast cancer recurrence, in particular, agents targeting EMP.

Important secondary goals are the development of improved diagnostics that predict response to therapy and likelihood of recurrence. Professor Thompson aims to establish the potential of EMP markers in cells that have already spread to the blood stream and bone marrow as an alternative or supplement to the current clinical trials practice of monitoring the size of primary tumours. Further research will enable EMPathy BCN to fully integrate established research, clinical practice and drug discovery and development, in its quest to find a cure for recurrent breast cancer.