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    Research home > Beat Cancer Project > Breast cancer: Stopping the spread of breast cancer

    Breast cancer: Stopping the spread of breast cancer

    Darryl Russell

    Targeting the interaction of breast cancer with Toll-like receptors of the immune system to prevent metastasis

    Our research

    Each year over 12,000 Australian women are diagnosed with breast cancer which is often complicated by it progressing to an aggressive disease which spreads from the primary site. We have shown that components of the tumour extracellular matrix (i.e. a collection of supporting molecules outside of cells) contribute to the mechanism of spreading. Tumour cells remodel their extracellular matrix, producing an environment in which immune cells co-operate to promote cancer growth and progression. Our research will investigate how the immune system response is controlled by this cancer mechanism. Drugs already developed to target cells of the immune system will be trialled in models to confirm whether they can block the spread of the cancer. Our research will identify new treatment options for patients diagnosed with invasive disease who would otherwise suffer relapse after surgery.

    What we aim to achieve

    Our research is aimed at finding how cancers acquire the ability to spread from their primary site to other organs and tissues. In most solid cancers it is this spread that causes the lethal forms of the disease. It is our plan to develop clinical tools that identify the lethal forms of cancer and target the mechanism to prevent spread and increase cancer survival.

    Our next steps and milestones

    Funding from Cancer Council SA donors has been critical to initiate a potential high return collaboration between three researchers with unique expertise. We expect to develop new applications for existing drugs in the treatment of breast cancer. Drugs already developed to target cells of the immune system will be trialled in models to confirm whether they can block the spread of the cancer.

    What motivates me

    Personally, I find that understanding cell behaviours is a fascinating area. Cancer cells are particularly interesting as they threaten normal cell control mechanisms to promote abnormal growth and spread.  Modern molecular and biochemical technologies have made this an extremely rapid advancing area and the opportunity to collaborate among many world class researchers at the University of Adelaide is also exciting.

    My message to supporters

    Our work is the extrapolation and unification of several well advanced lines of research in fields of each of the co-researchers. The funding that we have received from Cancer Council SA donors is invaluable as start-up funding to bring a novel idea such as this into existence and from this seed we expect major national competitive grants will flow, eventually leading to the application of existing drugs to help patients with metastatic cancer.


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