Researchers at Nottingham and Oxford Universities have found a promising method to slow the growth of one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.
The team of researchers used a new drug that can attack cancer tumors in deeper regions than conventional treatments, like radiotherapy and chemotherapy, can reach.
The drug, known as JQ1, was tested on mice with human cancer tumors. JQ1 alters a cancer cell’s response to hypoxia (low oxygen), which is found in triple negative cancer, a form of the disease that is the most difficult to treat.
During a trial, scientists found that JQ1 was able to slow cancerous tumor growth by about one third each day.
When combined with conventional therapies, the researchers say the drug may offer added benefits to patients with triple negative breast cancer. Triple negative patients account for roughly 15% of the 50,000 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
The triple negative variation of breast cancer is difficult to beat because the cancer cells have adapted to the low oxygen environment, which makes them more resistant to radiotherapy and chemotherapy. It also lacks the receptors for progesterone, oestrogen and the protein HER2. The most successful treatments for breast cancer use these receptors to target the disease.
When oxygen levels are low, tumor cells activate certain genes that send signals for blood vessels to supply them with more oxygen. This response gives the cells the nutrients they need to continue growing.
JQ1, a BET inhibitor, addresses this issue on the molecular level.
Triple negative breast cancer is difficult to treat because of its aggressiveness, but the disease is typically responsive to chemotherapy.
Dr. Alan McIntyre, the study’s co-author, says the drug can mean added benefits for patients and may play an important role in the treatment of aggressive breast cancers.