Sensitising breast cancers to hormone receptor-directed therapies

Start Year: 2014
Finish Year: 2017
Chief Investigator: Dr Elgene Lim
Grant Type: Practitioner Fellowship
Institution: Garvan Institute for Medical Research

Despite the success of many breast cancer treatments, nearly 3,000 Australians still die from breast cancer every year. The majority of breast cancers express hormone receptors. Even with effective oestrogen (ER)-directed therapies, such as tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors, a significant number of patients do not respond to treatment and their disease recurs. In addition, most patients with metastatic breast cancer (cancer that has spread away from the breast to distant organs, such as the bone and lungs) ultimately develop resistance to hormonal therapies. Clearly, new and improved breast cancer treatments are needed.

Most breast cancers also express another receptor, the androgen receptor (AR), but it is not targeted by current therapies. This project aims to study novel ways to sensitise breast cancer to therapies targeting both ER and AR, by combining hormonal treatments with other cancer therapies. The proposed project will build on Dr Lim’s work on ER and AR in breast cancer using breast and tumour tissues obtained from patients, and experiments will be performed using patient-derived breast tumours that have been established in mice. Analyses of these tissues will allow Dr Lim to study the abnormal changes that occur with hormonal signalling in breast tumours, identify predictors of treatment response, and better understand the mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance to these therapies.