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Dublin researchers may have found new therapy for hard-to-treat type of breast cancer

RCSI scientists discover molecule that selectively kills off breast cancer cells


(Stock image) Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

(Stock image) Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

(Stock image) Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Researchers have discovered a potential new therapy for a form of breast cancer that is difficult to treat.

Scientists from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) found a molecule that can selectively kill the cells of a hard-to-treat subtype of breast cancer, a discovery that could lead to a new therapy.

Triple negative breast cancer is a subtype of breast cancer that is mainly treated with chemotherapy.

However, up to 70pc of patients with this form of cancer develop resistance to treatment.

As a result, researchers have been searching for alternative methods of treating the cancer.

They decided to test different molecules to see if any of them could selectively kill cancer cells while sparing healthy cells.

Researchers from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences found the specific molecule that was able to do this, BAS-2, and published their study in the current edition of Science Advances.

“Our aim now is to develop the small molecule into a more drug-like compound and to assess if we can harness the new function for potentially improved treatment of patients,” said Dr Tríona Ní Chonghaile, study author and RCSI lecturer in physiology and medical physics.

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The researchers had also sought to better understand how the molecule killed off the cancer cells. They were able to confirm that it was due to an enzyme called HDAC6, which is contained in the cell.

They were able to identify for the first time that HDAC6 plays a key role in altering energy in these breast cancer cells.

The RCSI researchers have now submitted a patent related to this work and are seeking industry partners to develop this treatment further.

The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust Seed Award, L’Oreal-Unesco for Women in Science Programme and Science Foundation Ireland’s Frontiers for the Future Programme.

Triple negative breast cancer is typically treated with chemotherapy, often following the patient undergoing mastectomy or lumpectomy first.

According to the Irish Cancer Society, about one in every eight breast cancers are triple negative. It is more common in younger women and black women.

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