New drug gives hope to treat aggressive form of breast cancer

 A new drug is giving hope to people affected by triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) – an aggressive form of cancer that accounts for about 15 per cent of breast cancer cases.

A new research project, funded by Cancer Council NSW and led by the Centenary Institute’s Associate Professor Jeff Holst, is testing a new drug designed to starve TNBC cells by keeping them from accessing a particular nutrient that makes them grow fast.

If successful, at the end of the three-year project, the team hopes to start clinical trials in TNBC patients and would be one of the first targeted treatments for this aggressive cancer, with potential for improved survival rates.

Associate Professor Jeff Holst said they looked at what nutrients cancer cells consume to grow and survive.

“One specific nutrient, glutamine, jumped out at us in the process – and that’s how we found that unlike healthy cells, TNBC cells use glutamine for energy,” he said.

“We then looked at the pumps that bring nutrients into the cells. In TNBC, one of the pumps enables it to bring in more glutamine, which helps the cancer cells outgrow normal cells and survive – we hope that our drug can block this pump, so that we can starve cancer cells. In the lab context, we have already seen this work, now we need to test it further.”

Cancer Council Greater Western Sydney Acting Regional Manager Crystal Huynh said research like Associate Professor Jeff Holst’s  is made possible by donations from events like Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea. Cancer Council NSW is 95 per cent community funded.

Support: Organisers and best friends Theresa Quattromani and Josephine Borg are hosting the Horsley Park Biggest Morning Tea on May 24.

Support: Organisers and best friends Theresa Quattromani and Josephine Borg are hosting the Horsley Park Biggest Morning Tea on May 24.

“In May and June, Cancer Council is encouraging people across the state to gather their friends, family or workmates for a cup of tea and a bite to eat,” she said

“Funds raised through Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea go to research projects like this and others across the state.”

To make a donation to the Horsley Park Biggest Morning Tea visit bit.ly/horsleyparkabmt2018.