Worst breast cancers targeted
Raising awareness: Women toss bras during the 5th Pink Bra Spring and Bra Toss and help Push Up the Fight Against Breast Cancer event at the Trocadero Square near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Picture: Reuters

A WA scientist is working on groundbreaking research to shut down the most aggressive forms of breast cancer as part of a bid to meet a target of virtually no deaths from the disease within 15 years.

Associate Professor Pilar Blancafort, from the University of Western Australia and the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, is working on proteins that could silence the genes responsible for dangerous types of breast cancer that often resist treatment such as chemotherapy.

She has received a novel concept award from the National Breast Cancer Foundation to develop specific molecular ways to permanently shut down oncogenes, the genes that cause cancer and allow it to spread.

It is one of 20 grants this year worth more than $8.5 million to help develop the next generation of breast cancer research leaders, supported by the fundraiser Women in Super Mother's Day Classic.

Professor Blancafort is working on new therapies for breast cancer, focusing on treatments for triple negative breast cancer and luminal B breast cancer, subtypes of the disease which often have a poor prognosis.

"These tumours are often very aggressive and there aren't effective targeted therapies for these patients at the moment," she said.

"Part of the drive that I have is to target these types of tumours because they spread very quickly and often become resistant to treatment, so we must develop innovative and targeted strategies for these patients."

Using information from the mapping of the cancer genome, Professor Blancafort is targeting the main genetic drivers of these types of breast cancer.

"The idea is to manufacture proteins that change the properties of the genes that cause triple negative breast cancer, meaning that we permanently turn them off and kill the tumours," she said. Laboratory tests had shown that the manufactured proteins had a long-lasting effect on cancer genes.

"The cancer genes stayed silent for many months and that was remarkable, because that meant the tumour didn't come back."

NBCF's director of research investment Alison Butt said developing better treatments for aggressive types of breast cancer would help the foundation reach its goal of no deaths from breast cancer by 2030.

The West Australian

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