World-class research targets the spread of breast cancer

About six to 10 per cent of new breast cancer cases are metastatic, meaning cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body—often the woman’s bones, liver, lungs and brain. Up to 30 per cent of patients will have their cancer metastasise or recur after treatment**.

Once the cancer spreads it can be difficult to control. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in Australian women.

So how and why does breast cancer spread? And can we use this knowledge to improve breast cancer treatment and the survival rates?

These are the questions Dr Patricia Carreira is focused on. In the lab at Mater Research—Mater’s world-class research institute—Dr Carreira is researching breast cancer progression and development. She’s exploring the activity of mobile DNA, or jumping genes: jumping genes are repetitive sequences able to copy themselves to new locations in the genome. Their activation is associated with worse cancer prognosis; however, the underlying mechanism that links cancer aggressiveness and jumping genes' is still unknown..

Jumping genes are more active in more aggressive tumours—and the more aggressive the cancer, the more likely it is to spread.

Dr Carreira’s project is tackling how these jumping genes affect cancer progression, and whether they can be used to identify which cancers are going to metastasise. She is also examining whether it is possible to control the spread of cancer, by controlling mobile DNA elements within the cancer.

While there is still a long way to go, this research—if successful—could give doctors a better understanding of what makes a cancer spread, and which cancers are likely to metastasise. Knowledge of a patient’s specific cancer risk means medical teams could personalise treatment to suit a woman’s individual circumstances and enhance her quality of life. A woman could start her chemotherapy earlier or have immediate surgery, for example.

As a result, the survival rates of breast cancer could improve.

Thanks to the support of participants and/or donors like you, Mater is able to fund exciting and ground-breaking research directions such as this one.

Research is the most important tool we have in the fight against some of the major challenges facing healthcare today. Your support of Mater Chicks in Pink through the RACQ International Women’s Day Fun Run is helping to fund incredible advances that can change lives.

*Source: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publica...
** Source: http://www.mbcn.org/incidence-and-incidence-rates/