A simple test could improve the treatment odds of patients diagnosed with breast cancer, thanks to new research at the University of Winnipeg.
The drug Tamoxifen, used to treat the majority of breast cancer cases, is ineffective in approximately half of all patients who receive it. Dean Reddick, a graduate student in the Master of Science in Bioscience, Technology and Public Policy program, is researching a way to identify these patients before treatment starts.
The research impacts the treatment of estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer, which accounts for approximately 70% of all breast cancer cases, and is characterized by estrogen binding to an abnormal number of receptors. Doctors typically prescribe Tamoxifen at the start of any ER+ treatment, thanks to its success rate in patients who are responsive to it.
Key to solving the issue is a protein within cancer cells known as N-Myristoyltransferase (NMT), which the lab has already discovered activates with increased estrogen receptor activity. Since last September, Reddick has produced 14 different variants of breast cancer cells, each with different localizations of the protein. The plan is now to treat each one and monitor their responses. Although the lab still has further testing to do, Reddick believes the protein is an indicator of responsive cells. Once the indicators are identified, Reddick says within 3 to 4 years a biopsy could be used to determine a patient’s resistance level and prescribe appropriate treatment.
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