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27th November 2018

Blocking the Pathway to Cancer Spread

Yeesim Khew Goodall

The discovery of a gene and signalling pathway which may explain how triple negative breast cancer cells become resistant to treatment and spread more rapidly, could lead to new therapies being developed to block the spread of this difficult to treat cancer.

With chemotherapy often ineffective against triple negative breast cancer, a team led by Associate Professor Yeesim Khew-Goodall, Head of the Cell Signalling Laboratory at the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB), has been busy researching more about the pathway and how to impede it.

Thanks to the support of Australian Breast Cancer Research (ABCR), the team is about to embark on developing a new cancer model, which uses cancer cells from individual cancer patients to identify new drugs to target the pathway.

“We envisage that using such a model will allow us to test drugs that target this pathway directly on the patient’s cancer cells,” A/Prof Khew-Goodall said.

“This more personalised approach will enable us to identify the most effective combination of treatments for individual patients more rapidly.

“We are very hopeful that we may, in time, be able to develop a treatment that blocks this pathway and stop the cancer from spreading.

“We have in fact already developed an initial screening platform that, in combination with a computer-driven prediction program, will enable us to identify candidate compounds that block this pathway.”

This exciting development has followed 12 months of intensive research by A/Professor Khew-Goodall’s team, after making the pathway discovery last year.

The research helps understand:

  • How the resistance to treatment may occur
  • What effect blocking the pathway may have on cancer cells
  • Whether more specific targets for inhibition can be found
  • Whether screening may be possible for patients
  • Whether the pathway is only active in triple negative breast cancers, or is also present in other cancer types.

A/Prof Khew-Goodall is hugely grateful to the support of ABCR and its kind donors helping fund the research program.

“We are highly dependent on this support for the progression of our research program. We believe we will in time be able to provide new treatment options to a group of patients whose options beyond chemotherapy are very limited.”