Breast cancer can return many years after treatment of the primary tumour, caused by cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body. These cells can remain dormant for many years and they are not sensitive to current chemo- and radiotherapies, which primarily target fast growing cells. In some cases, these dormant cancer cells start to grow again forming new tumours at secondary sites. The exact processes by which cancer cells become dormant are currently poorly understood.
Supported by Against Breast Cancer and Weston Park Cancer Charity, Dr Lewis Quayle and Prof. Ingunn Holen at the University of Sheffield have developed techniques to model particular processes in breast cancer. This has allowed them to compare thousands of genes that are either switched on or off by dormant and growing breast cancer cells. The results of these studies have now been published in the journal ‘Cancers’. Their research identified a number of genes and cell signalling mechanisms that might underpin breast cancer cell dormancy and therefore represent promising starting points for the development of new treatments to prevent breast cancer recurrence.
Prof. Holen says, “we are immensely grateful for the support from Against Breast Cancer for this exciting study. The next steps will be to select a few top candidate molecules to investigate in more depth, in order to demonstrate how they regulate breast cancer cell dormancy. Our study is a great example of how seed funding allows you to explore an idea to determine if it is worth pursuing in a more extensive project, allowing us to focus our efforts in the right areas.”
You can read more about their research project here.
Transcriptomic Profiling Reveals Novel Candidate Genes and Signalling Programs in Breast Cancer Quiescence and Dormancy is published in Cancers, 4 Aug 2021. Read the full publication here.