MicroRNAs in breast cancer chemo-sensitivity: tiny controllers of a big problem?

Start Year: 2012
Finish Year: 2014
Chief Investigator: Dr Alexander Swarbrick
Grant Type: Novel Concept Awards
Institution: Garvan Institute of Medical Research

New targeted agents have been developed for certain classes of breast cancer. Despite this, treatment with chemotherapy is still an essential component of the clinical management of breast cancer, particularly for hormone-receptor negative disease.

Unfortunately, the response to chemotherapy is highly variable. Some patients have great benefit while others suffer the side effects of chemotherapy while receiving very little benefit. The choice of chemotherapy is also complex, and there are few good indicators to steer clinical decision-making.

To improve the value of chemotherapy treatment, biomarkers, which can accurately predict a tumour’s response to a chemotherapy regimen, are required. Systemic therapies that synergise with chemotherapy are also needed.

To address these needs, Dr Swarbrick will test the novel hypothesese that (i) microRNA expression will be a valuable predictive biomarker for chemotherapy response and (ii) that certain microRNAs are functionally involved in chemosensitivity and, by manipulating their expression, we can sensitise breast cancers to chemotherapy.

This exciting multidisciplinary and multi-institutional project aims to provide a new conceptual framework for the molecular control of chemo-sensitivity. Dr Swarbrick hopes these discoveries may steer future breast cancer research directions and clinical decision making.