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9th May 2019

A Potential New Treatment for Breast Cancer

Theresa Hickey lab

Based at the Dame Roma Mitchell Cancer Research Laboratories at The University of Adelaide, Dr Hickey is pioneering new treatment options for patients that develop therapy resistance, a fatal outcome for many patients.

Therapy resistance in breast cancer is commonly caused by mutations in the estrogen receptor, particularly in estrogen positive receptor breast cancer.

Estrogen and androgen receptors naturally compete against each other, so Dr Hickey’s new work has focused on the androgen receptor being used to out-compete mutant estrogen receptors and stop the spread of the disease.

“We know that the major cause of death from breast cancer is resistance to current estrogen receptor target therapies, so through our research we are developing alternative approaches to treat and prevent therapy resistance in breast cancer,” Dr Hickey said.

“We are really looking to harness natural mechanisms that will stop the cancer from spreading. Our current drugs are artificial, but they stimulate natural processes. Breast cancer represents an imbalance of sex hormone action and the approach we are taking is to try and rebalance the hormone activity to treat cancer.”

One of the exciting aspects of Dr Hickey’s research is that she is working with drugs that are already approved for use in people, meaning they are able to trial these drugs in patients straight away!

“Estrogen receptor target drugs often leave women with awful side effects,” Dr Hickey said.

“We are finding that women feel good on the drugs we are working with, which is an exciting outcome.”

With these findings, Dr Hickey and her team are currently trying to get their results published, which would put a spotlight on their research.

“If we can prove that these drugs do stop tumour growth without the nasty side effects, we will be helping so many women out there currently struggling to get through their current forms of therapy and are experiencing harsh physical side effects like extreme fatigue and joint pain.”

Dr Hickey’s research also stems into other cancers, including prostate cancer, and could have relevance to other hormone-driven illnesses.

“Our research could have the potential to save the lives of not only those devastated by breast cancer, but many other cancers and that would be incredible.”

Dr Hickey was able to progress her research from seed funding provided by ABCR thanks to our generous donors! If you would like to support Dr Hickey’s potentially lifesaving research, contact us on 08 8445 2453!