Dr Torsten Stein, based at the Institute of Cancer Sciences at the University of Glasgow, recently discovered that the protein Annexin A8, which he had previously found is produced in the often aggressive ‘basal-like’ form of breast cancer, is also found in some normal breast cells that are thought to be the cells of origin for these cancers.
Most cases of basal-like breast cancer are also ‘triple-negative’ breast cancer. As well as being more aggressive, these types of breast cancer lack the treatment options that are available for other types of breast cancer, such as Herceptin or tamoxifen, because they do not produce the proteins that these drugs target.
There is still so much more to know about different breast cancers and why they progress and grow. The three year project will look at how this protein acts in normal cells to help understand its role in basal-like breast cancer, which affects around 7,500 women each year. His discoveries will also help shed light on why this type of breast cancer can be more aggressive and difficult to treat.
Dr Stein said: “Knowing what this protein does in normal cells in the breast will help us understand how basal-like breast cancer develops, leading to new treatments which could benefit thousands of women. Improving treatments for these women, who currently have few options, is crucial for improving their chances of survival and quality of life.”
Katherine Woods, Research Information Manager at Breast Cancer Campaign, said: “Dr Stein’s work is vital in unravelling the complex nature of this often aggressive cancer, and could lead to more targeted treatments which are urgently needed if more women are to overcome and outlive the disease.
“We passionately believe we owe it to every woman affected by this disease to explore every avenue to overcome and outlive breast cancer – in our lifetime.”