IRISH scientists have discovered a new treatment to help prevent the relapse of an aggressive form of breast cancer.
A group of Irish scientists working at NUI Galway discovered that by targeting a specific stress response while undergoing treatment, the chances of so-called "triple-negative" breast cancer returning to a patient can be significantly reduced.
This type of breast cancer is one of the most difficult to treat forms of the disease to treat, and accounts for around 15% of all breast cancers diagnosed.
It occurs more frequently in younger women.
Up until now, there have been no targeted therapies available for it.
The disease is mainly treated by chemotherapy, but while this is usually successful initially, a large percentage of patients relapse within one to three years of treatment and have a poor long-term prognosis.
Now, the new drug being developed by the team has a potential for clinical use and improves the initial chemotherapy treatment.
It also reduces the chance of relapse of this particular type of breast cancer, reducing the growth of new cancer cells by 50%.
In a pre-clinical model of the cancer, the drug increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment and led to the regression of 8 out of 10 cancers, compared to the regression of just 3 out of 10 cancers using chemotherapy alone.
But following work by scientists at the Apoptosis Research Centre, the exact mechanism of the tumour relapse after chemotherapy, which remained unknown until now, has been discovered.
Professor Afshin Samali, leader of the research team, said they were excited to discover a new therapeutic strategy for triple negative breast cancer patients.
“Furthermore, this strategy may benefit many other cancer patients whose cancer cells rely on activated cell stress responses to survive,” he said.