Breast cancer patients may be spared side-effects of chemo

Patients with an aggressive form of breast cancer could be spared unnecessary chemotherapy, thanks to Irish research.

Researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland hope their work, which is at an early stage, could enable women who are unlikely to respond well to chemotherapy to avoid its side effects.

Led by PhD student Federico Lucantoni, who is funded by the Irish Cancer Society, the research has identified a mathematical formula to predict the effectiveness of chemotherapy on cells with triple-negative breast cancer.

This type of breast cancer is diagnosed in more than 250 people in Ireland each year, is more common among younger women, and is difficult to treat.

Using this formula, the RCSI team now predicts that these cells may respond to a new drug already being used to treat some leukaemia patients.

While chemotherapy is currently the only form of drug treatment available to triple-negative breast cancer patients, some patients suffer side-effects without any of the desired outcomes.

“We hope that, if successful in further testing, our research may one day allow doctors to give women more tailored and effective treatments, and spare the harsh side-effects of chemotherapy in women who are unlikely to respond well to it,” said RCSI professor of physiology Jochen Prehn.

Prof Prehn is supervising Mr Lucantoni’s research and is director of the RCSI’s Centre for Systems Medicine.

Following recent publication of the findings, in Nature’s ‘Cell Death and Disease’ journal, the formula will be tested in more advanced breast cancer models in the laboratory, helping to fine-tune it for possible patient trials at a later date.

Funds raised for the Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day this Friday will help it to fund this and its many other projects. It has spent €25m on cancer research since 2010 and more than 100 researchers are currently being funded.

Donations can be made online at cancer.ie/daffodilday or by texting ‘Daff’ to 50300.

The Irish Cancer Society will receive at least €3.60 of the €4 billed to those who send a text.

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