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22nd July 2023

New discoveries on why some cells are chemo-resistant

Dr Cameron Bracken

We caught up on the latest developments in breast cancer research from Associate Professor Cameron Bracken from the Centre for Cancer Biology.

Thanks to the support from our generous donors, A/Prof Bracken received a grant in 2020 to discover why cells become chemotherapy resistant.

Early investigations found a gene,Basonuclin (BNC2), had a critical role in breast cancer and early data pointed to a possible role in chemoresistance.

Chemotherapy resistance occurs when the cancer cells have mutated, meaning the cancer treatment is no longer effective and leads to patient relapse.

After several years of dedicated research, the team not only confirmed BNC2 plays a role in breast cancer, but it also contributes to the environment that cancer cells live in, known as the extracellular matrix (ECM).

The ECM is critical to how cancer cells survive, grow, evade anti-cancer drugs, and invade through tissue.

“We discovered that BNC2 does indeed play a crucial role in breast cancer, but surprisingly, its impact is less associated with breast cancer cells themselves and is instead vital for the function of fibroblasts, a type of cell that creates the environment in which cancer cells live,” A/Prof Bracken said.

“Our research reveals that targeting BNC2 may be another promising avenue for developing therapies to tackle the ECM and fight cancer.”

This research was conducted using human breast cell lines, which are cells originally derived from breast cancer but are now grown in the lab. The team received antibodies against BNC2 from Monash University in Melbourne.

Ongoing research on this important gene (BNC2) will continue and will also include a PhD project conducted by Chi Yau Liu.

“We are grateful for the contributions of other researchers at the Centre for Cancer Biology in Adelaide, including A/Prof Yeeism Khew Goodall and Prof Michael Samuel, whose specialised expertise is invaluable to our work,’’ A/Prof Bracken said.

“Our research on the role of BNC2 in breast cancer has been generously supported by The Hospital Research Foundation Group and Australian Breast Cancer Research.”

The team’s findings have been compiled into a paper, which will be published soon.

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