Queensland researchers discover cancer kill switch for breast cancer subtype

Women with particular sub-types of breast cancer have been given new hope, thanks to a discovery by Queensland researchers identifying a new way to kill certain types of cancer cells.

Funded by Cancer Council Queensland, a University of Queensland study published in the international journal Oncogene has found that some women with breast cancer could benefit from a new targeted treatment that could kill cancer cells.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said the breakthrough was promising and had the potential to save lives.

“In Queensland, around 3300 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and sadly around 550 die from the disease,” Ms McMillan said.

“Some women have a poorer prognosis due to lack of effective therapies available for their specific breast cancer.

“This research worked to identify potential new drug targets for breast cancer that act by changing the level of calcium inside breast cancer cells to stop their growth.

“While more research is still needed to further investigate these options, the ground-breaking discovery gives much-needed hope to breast cancer patients going forward.”

Professor Gregory Monteith from UQ’s School of Pharmacy and Mater Research Institute, said the recent discovery will pave the way for more targeted research and treatments for breast cancer patients.

“More specifically, the study found that a cellular channel TRPV4, which acts as a sensor in normal cells, is at a much higher level in some breast cancer cases, including those that do not respond to most targeted therapies,” Prof Monteith said.

“However we found that instead of switching off the protein to stop the breast cancer growing or metastasising, we can activate it further to cause the death of breast cancer cells.

“This work provides a new dimension into how we might be able to treat some types of breast cancers in the future.

“This form of treatment may also complement other treatment options, and could represent a way to make current drugs more effective.”

Ms McMillan said breast cancer was the most common form of cancer diagnosed in Queensland women.

“One in eight Queensland women will be diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 85,” Ms McMillan said.

“Through lifesaving research studies like these, we can continue to ensure that those affected have the best possible chance of successfully treating, and surviving, a diagnosis.”

For more information about Cancer Council Queensland, visit cancerqld.org.au or call 13 11 20

For more information or interviews, please contact:
Laura McKoy,
Media Manager,
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5345
Mobile: 0409 001 171