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Irish breast cancer research team reveal 'exciting' new research

Breast Predict was founded six months ago, and has already revealed some exciting findings.

THE BREAST-PREDICT cancer research team has only been in existence for six months, but it has already made a number of exciting new findings.

Some of its research has yielded what it describes as “exciting new insights” about the resistance of some breast cancers to a commonly used breast cancer drug.

Findings

The study is developing a national breast cancer biobank and database which includes tumour tissue, blood samples and patient information collected, with permission, from almost every breast cancer patient in Ireland.

This data is being used to look at how breast cancer can spread and become resistant to treatment.

Herceptin

Breast cancer patients who test positive for high levels of the Her2 protein are usually treated with Herceptin.

However, BREAST-PREDICT researchers have found that many patients whose tumours were positive for the estrogen receptor in addition to the Her2 protein, were more likely to develop resistance to Herceptin therapy.

It said this research may help in identifying, in advance, the breast cancer patients who are likely to respond poorly to Herceptin.

This could then help with the decision of whether to prescribe alternative or additional treatments.

Gene

The researchers also looked into the role of a gene called AKT-3 in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).

They found that approximately 10 per cent of TNBCs have high levels of AKT-3, and these tumours were more likely to recur after initial treatment.

This finding paves the way for future studies investigating the benefit of therapies targeting AKT-3 for this difficult-to-treat type of breast cancer.

Estrogen receptor

Estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer accounts for 70 per cent of all breast cancers.

Although it’s generally very treatable, some patients develop resistance to the more common therapies over time.

This can leading to recurrence of the primary tumour, and in some cases, metastasis and eventual death.

BREAST-PREDICT researchers discovered that patients whose primary tumours express a protein called PRDX1 are more likely to develop a recurrence in the future.

This finding may have implications for future breast cancer care, where it could be used to help guide treatment decisions in these patients.

The researchers say their findings “highlight how the role of particular genes and proteins present in breast tumours can inform clinical decisions about breast cancer treatment”.

BREAST-PREDICT is the Irish Cancer Society’s first Collaborative Cancer Research Centre (CCRC), and is led by Professor William Gallagher. The Irish Cancer Society has invested €7.5 million in the centre, which is due to run for five years.

Read: Here’s how your DNA could help breast cancer research>

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