Breakthrough allows identification of resistance to breast cancer treatment

Early detection development by Irish researchers enables different strategy to be put in place.

Researchers have developed a way of identifying women with breast cancer who are likely to be “resistant” to some of the most common treatments for the disease.

Their breakthrough comes with the potential to identify such patients more quickly, and in turn develop treatments that increase survival rates.

Prof Leonie Young and Dr Sara Charmsaz of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland outlined details of their research at an Irish Cancer Society event to launch a new fundraising drive to fund further scientific work by the Breast-Predict group, which includes the RCSI and five other Irish universities.

The RCSI team with Beaumont Hospital surgery department have found a new way to monitor the treatment of oestrogen-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer patients. Women with this form of cancer, which is one of the most commonly diagnosed, usually take drugs such as Tamoxifen or Aromatose inhibitors to reduce the chances of the cancer coming back.
Some of these patients, however, can become resistant to these treatments and their cancer returns. The team discovered that ER-positive women with a high level of a “biomarker” called S100Beta in their blood and “are significantly more likely to see a recurrence of the disease”.

“The early detection of patients with treatment resistance enables a different strategy to be put in place which can significantly improve there patients’ survival,” explained Prof Young.

Clinical trial

The next stage is for this research to undergo a clinical trial, Dr Charmsaz told This would, it is hoped, lead to new monitoring strategies which could increase survival of patients, she added. Identifying women in this category quicker would mean that the cancer would be treated before metastasis, when it has spread to other parts of the body.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The news comes off the back of the Irish Cancer Society launching a new campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, “Cups against Cancer”. Designed to encourage woman to get their cups out for a good cause and host a coffee morning in October, Cancer society head of fundraising Mark Mellett said the “Cups Against Cancer” campaign would enable researchers to continue to find better ways to diagnose and treat this disease, and ensure women were supported “through such a frightening and worrying time”.

Nearly 2,900 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Ireland every year, that equates to eight women every day. The money raised from the campaign will be used to fund more lifesaving cancer research and services to support those affected.
The Irish Cancer Society relies almost entirely on voluntary donations made by the public and companies to fund its work for breast cancer patients. Money raised through Cups against cancer will help to provide advice and support to breast cancer patients through the Freephone Cancer Nurseline and 13 Daffodil Centres around the country, fund transportation for chemotherapy patients through the Volunteer Driver Service and nursing care at home for end of life patients through the Night Nursing Service.

Reducing the risk
As well as the campaign, the society has also realised a number of steps which they say following can actively help reduce the risk of cancer.
1. Prevention: adopt a healthy lifestyle from an early age – eat well, exercise, don’t smoke or use drugs and limit alcohol intake.
2. Early detection: Many cancers are readily cured if caught early – for example 19 out of 20 bowel cancers which are caught in stage one are cured and one in 10 people found with stage four bowel cancer will be alive five years later. But many people still ignore symptoms and many fail to make use of free cancer screens
3. Treatment: Engaging with evidence-based treatment and having access in a timely manner to the latest diagnostics and medicines and having a skilled integrated medical system properly resourced to deliver them has clear impact on outcome.
4. Post-treatment survival figures: Cancers and various treatments can raise the risks of several other fatal conditions (such as cardiovascular disease). Hence maintaining a healthy weight and actively exercising after treatment appear now to have big impacts on cancer recurrence and the likelihood of death from cancer and other causes. Therefore acting on this knowledge would significantly improve outcome as well as the other areas. There is no single fix and each aspect has impact to a varying extent on different cancers.


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