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Making triple negative breast cancer responsive to treatment

Start Year: 2017
Finish Year: 2018
Chief Investigator: Dr Normand Pouliot
Grant Type: Pilot Study Grant
Institution: Olivia-Newton John Cancer Research Centre

Triple negative breast cancer is more aggressive than other breast cancer subtypes and is more likely to spread to other parts of the body faster. It is also the most difficult type of breast cancer to treat.

Once the cancer spreads – a process called metastasis – the survival outlook falls dramatically, but at present, doctors have no way to predict which patients’ breast cancer will metastasise.

Many triple negative breast cancers have high levels of two particular proteins which are known to promote the spread of cancer cells. This NBCF-funded study aims to determine if extremely high levels of these proteins can be used to identify the patients whose disease is more likely to spread.

Dr Normand Pouliot
Dr Normand Pouliot

A second focus of the study is to test a new strategy for treating triple negative breast cancer. Unlike other subtypes of breast cancer, there are no therapies specifically tailored for triple negative. Chemotherapy is the only treatment option and it is not very effective once the cancer has spread.

Dr Normand Pouliot aims to see if standard treatments that are being successfully used for other types of breast cancer (such as tamoxifen) can be made to work against triple negative as well.

He will test if blocking the two proteins found in triple negative with novel inhibitors, allows standard treatments to work and stop the growth of the cancer cells.

The combined approach of this project could point to early indicators and more effective treatment of patients with aggressive triple negative breast cancer – two potential breakthroughs that could save the lives of many women in future.