Research takes a quantum leap towards saving more lives and reducing suffering around the world
In an exciting breakthrough, a very important protein has been discovered that predicts whether a breast cancer patient is going to respond successfully to endocrine therapy or chemotherapy.
A tool based on the protein is now being developed, to enable clinicians to make more precise and reliable decisions about treatment.
The research was funded by The Breast Cancer Research Partnership, whose members include: Health Research Council of New Zealand, Breast Cancer Cure and Breast Cancer Foundation NZ. In a media release announcing the discovery, they said: “These findings have the potential to change the current clinical practice of breast cancer management around the world.”
Breast Cancer Cure Chair and BCAC committee member Fay Sowerby says the work is significant globally. “This is a tremendous discovery. The tool being developed is a biomarker – the Holy Grail of cancer research today. Having such a sophisticated tool is likely to save lives and save women from undergoing treatments that are not going to work for them. By taking more targeted and precise therapy women are less likely to relapse and to develop advanced breast cancer with the suffering that entails.”
Lead researcher Dong-Xu Liu says: “Breast cancer is curable if treated in a timely fashion and with the correct therapy. We might have found a way to improve the efficacy of endocrine therapy, the most widely-used breast cancer treatment for two-thirds of breast cancer patients.
“We can now predict those who will not respond to the therapy and they may now receive alternative treatment improving their chance of survival from breast cancer and allowing them to lead a quality life after cancer.”
Findings from the research have recently been published in the esteemed British Journal of Cancer, demonstrating the significance of the work for the scientific and clinical community. Liu, who is an Associate Professor at AUT University, led the research that discovered the protein in collaboration with scientists and clinicians from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Singapore and China.
The cancer-related protein is named SHON (secreted hominoid specific oncogene). Liu has demonstrated that not only can SHON accurately predict if a patient will benefit from endocrine therapy, but it can also predict a patient’s response to chemotherapy before surgical removal of the tumour.
The exact mechanism by which this tool works remains under investigation. The next steps will be for Liu to seek funding for a feasibility study, followed by a randomised controlled clinical trial.
“This is a pivotal point in the research and one we would not have achieved were it not for the support and funding we have received to date,” Liu says.
Fay says the funders are extremely grateful to all the donors who have also contributed to the project, and encourages further donations to assist in the ongoing work.
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2 March 2019