Dr Kochetkova, Professor Michael Samuel and their research team at the Centre for Cancer Biology have discovered that an obscure protein causes breast cancer to develop and grow more quickly.
The protein, called Creld2, has been found in very high levels in the most aggressive types of breast cancer which have lower survival rates. It is also found in kidney cancers, nonmelanoma skin cancers – the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia – and invasive squamous cell carcinomas, which can be deadly if not detected early.
The team has made the unique discovery in finding that tumour-produced Creld2 allows cancer to grow and spread by hijacking healthy cells.
“In recent years it has become apparent that tumours are not just a collection of cancerous cells, but are complex systems made of multiple parts,” Dr Kochetkova said.
“We and others have found that cancer cells affect their neighbouring healthy cells, which helps to progress many cancer features such as the development of new blood vessels, resistance to anti-cancer drugs, metastatic spread and more.”
Dr Kochetkova and her team now hope to increase their understanding of Creld2, with the aim of designing and testing new diagnostic tools and therapies to target this protein and stopping breast cancers from growing and spreading around the body.
With 1 in 7 Australian women being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and 3,000 losing their battle each year, the need for greater understanding and improved treatments is vital.
“Despite significant advances in breast cancer treatment, a large proportion of invasive mammary tumours remain untreatable and result in patients losing their lives,” Dr Kochetkova said.
Thanks to the generosity from our donor community and together with The Longest Table, Dr Kochetkova is able to produce new breast cancer drugs to directly target Creld2 proteins, as well as testing the use of Creld2 as a biomarker to help identify the most effective treatments for patients.
“Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer related mortality in women. It is a debilitating disease that affects almost every family and I want to make a difference for these women.”