Breast cancer relapse could be thing of past with Manchester uni breakthrough

Breast cancer relapses and treatment resistance may become a thing of the past thanks to a breakthrough from researchers atThe University of Manchester.

Working with drug development company, Evgen Pharma, who focus on the treatment of cancer and neurological conditions, the team at the university have developed a new combination of drugs in attempt to tackle the disease.

They have created a treatment including Evgen’s pathway-suppressing drug, ‘Sulforadex’ with standard hormonal treatments.

This will target both the oestrogen-sensitive cells and the remaining cancer stem cells at the same time.

Dr Robert Clarke, from the University’s Institute of Cancer Sciences said: “The hormonal therapies we use today are very good at treating breast cancer tumours driven by oestrogen.

“However, they don’t completely solve the problem; this combination of drugs potentially allows us to target oestrogen-sensitive cells, whilst also mopping up the cells which cause treatment resistance.”

In research revealed at the American Association of Cancer Research annual conference today, shows that in the most common type of breast cancer, affecting 70% of patients, the drug Sulforadex helps overcome resistance to routinely used hormonal treatments by targeting the cancer stem cell population.

While most women initially respond well to hormonal treatment with drugs such as Tamoxifen, many go on to develop resistance and relapse.  

Around 70% of breast cancers express the ‘oestrogen receptor’ (ER) and typical treatment focuses on reducing oestrogen levels or blocking ER function.

However, the researchers have shown that cancer stem cells which cause tumours to re-grow and spread do not express the ER.

Therefore, these stem cells aren’t inhibited by the standard treatments and have the ability to re-grow the tumour.

The study was carried out in lab samples of treatment resistant cells from breast cancer patients, the next step will be to recruit patients for a trial in the next few months.

Dr David Howat, Head of Research and Development at Evgen Pharma, said: “We are really excited about the data presented at the AACR.

“Dr Rob Clarke and his excellent research team have demonstrated the efficacy of Sulforadex in patient derived cancer tissues.

“We now intent to extend this collaboration and advance Sulforadex into a clinical trial with breast cancer patients.” 

Image courtesy of Laura Taylor, with thanks.

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