Translation of basic research to breast cancer therapeutic

Start Year: 2007
Finish Year: 2007
Chief Investigator: Associate Professor Kum Kum Khanna
Grant Type: Career Development Fellowship
Institution: Queensland Institute of Medical Research

Think Tank

Despite the ability of targeted therapy (eg, Herceptin) to help a small subset of patients the outlook for breast cancer control is poor. No prevention measure has been identified that could significantly reduce risk. Disease progression although inexorable is slow, making first-in-human clinical trials of new agents unattractive. The availability of alternative treatment options, although minimally effective, also discourages first-in-human Phase I trials in breast cancer unless there is preclinical evidence for breast cancer specificity. Millions of chemicals are available for cancer testing but most kill tumour and normal cells indiscriminately. Better screening tools are needed, especially for breast cancer.

Associate Professor Khanna hopes to enable basic science discoveries being made in Australia about breast cancer to be used for drug and antibody discovery and taken up to the stage of first-in-human Phase I trials. Most of the funds will support basic scientists to turn their gene discovery (or gene of interest) into a modified breast cancer cell on which new drugs can be tested. It’s the comparison of this cell’s response with the parent cell that will identify a suitable drug. For example, if the researcher has found a ‘good’ gene that is no longer active in some breast cancers, cells where its been put back will resemble a normal cell and be resistant to the drug. The same resources could also be used to test complementary medicine with potential anti-breast cancer activity.

Best case outcome: new and effective treatment for breast cancer. Worst case outcome: no treatment directly found but new genes will have been validated as targets for breast cancer control; against which emerging technologies (antisense, siRNA, immunotherapy) might eventually be effective.