Understanding the basis of hormone-resistant breast cancer

Start Year: 2013
Finish Year: 2017
Chief Investigator: Dr Fatima Valdes Mora
Grant Type: Postdoctoral Fellowship
Institution: Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Postdoctoral Training Fellowship

Resistance to endocrine (anti-hormone) therapy is a major clinical problem in breast cancer. Understanding the molecular basis of anti-hormone resistance will help a large number of women with breast cancer.

Epigenetics, which means ‘above genetics’, is concerned with chemical tags on the DNA or on proteins called histones that attach to the DNA. These chemical tags provide instructions to switch genes on or off. Epigenetics is inherited but it can change during normal developmental processes, such as puberty and pregnancy. Importantly, these chemical tags can also change in certain diseases, such as cancer.

The Elf5 gene has recently been identified as playing a key role in the development of anti-hormone resistance. Elf5 expression can be regulated by epigenetics.

Epigenetic drugs are emerging as a new hope for cancer patients as an alternative to conventional chemotherapy as they are able to revert epigenetic changes, allowing cancerous cells to return to a more normal, healthy state.

The expected outcome of this work will show the critical involvement of Elf5 epigenetic regulation in hormone-resistant breast cancer and will provide potential to explore a new approach to combined therapies through epigenetic drugs.

This research is co-funded by NBCF and Cure Cancer Australia Foundation.