Diagnostic and therapeutic approaches against breast cancer metastasis

Start Year: 2015
Finish Year: 2015
Chief Investigator: Dr Christina Wong
Grant Type: Postdoctoral Fellowship
Institution: QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Breast cancer cells express a specific protein on their surface known as CXCR4, which functions to promote cancer cell spread to distant organs. This spread (metastasis) of cancer cells is the main cause of mortality in breast cancer patients. However, currently there are very few effective diagnostic and therapeutic solutions available for these patients. This project will use advanced imaging systems commonly used in the diagnosis of cancer, known as Positron Emission Tomography (PET), to identify metastatic breast cancer through their positivity for CXCR4. This will create the first reliable diagnostic tool to identify metastasis. In the next stage, the CXCR4 protein acts like a target or beacon on the metastatic breast cancer cells, allowing the PET tracers to lock onto them and destroy these cells specifically, with minimal damage (if at all) to surrounding healthy organs. The project will be conducted in close collaboration with an onsite clinical trials unit at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. Results from this project will be relayed directly into clinical trials for the benefit of enrolled patients. Additionally, data from the clinical trials will be regularly shared with me to ensure that the preclinical models used are accurately reflecting patient responses. Depending on the success of the clinical trials, this approach may be integrated into routine clinical breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in the future.