Hunter researchers targeting breast cancer recurrence

Aug 18 2012

University of Newcastle researchers have helped secure a further $5 million grant from the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) based on promising results from a study that successfully identified women who are at a greater risk of breast cancer recurrence.

As part of the first phase of this project, researchers received an initial $5 million grant from the NBCF in 2007 to identify the genetic biomarkers that are associated with the risk of recurrence in breast cancer.

The next phase of the study, which runs from 2013 to 2018, will focus on indentifying the cancer recurrence risk factors from these biomarkers and then appropriately targeting those women with immediate screening and therapies.

Professor Rodney Scott and Professor John Forbes from the University are part of a collaboration between The Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), The University of Queensland and The Garvan Institute that made the discovery.

Professor Scott said the finding took researchers a step closer to targeting those women who were more likely to develop breast cancer after remission and then treat them more quickly and effectively.

“What is novel and valuable about this project is that we will use nanotechnologies to investigate these biomarkers. With nanotechnology only costing a few cents to screen for breast cancer, it is cheap, easy and reliable in terms of its use in a clinical setting,” Professor Scott said.

“The advantage of testing women for these biomarkers is that more advanced treatment plans can be established for the patient and the risk of relapse is reduced significantly.

“On the other hand, it will also allow us to correctly identify those women who are not at risk of breast cancer recurrence, which relieves a huge stress during the remission process.

“This grant is so important because if we can prove the role of these biomarkers to identify women at risk, then we will be able to execute this screening process internationally and give women who have suffered from breast cancer both hope and peace of mind.”

Professor Scott is co-director of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Bioinformatics, Biomarker Discovery and Information-Based Medicine, and leads the HMRI Information Based Medicine Research Program. Professor John Forbes is a Professor of Surgical Oncology at the University of Newcastle and Calvary MaterNewcastle. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.