19 December 2018, By Mater Lotteries

Research Breakthrough gives hope to breast cancer patients

3 min read

 It is a frightening fact: 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer before their 85th birthday*. These startling statistics affect our mothers, sisters, aunties, nieces and best friends. As the most common cancer affecting women, breast cancer has become all too familiar to Australian families.

Thanks to advances in modern medicine, many of the 18,087 Australian women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year will respond well to therapy. But sadly not all breast cancers are receptive to treatment. Triple negative breast cancer, which makes up around 15 percent of breast cancers, can be more difficult to treat, and patients face a much poorer prognosis. For these women, breast cancer can be a terrifying road, filled with the unknown.

About the research

Thankfully, Mater researchers are working hard to change the future of women with triple negative breast cancer. Mater Researcher Professor Gregory Monteith and his team from the University of Queensland School of Pharmacy and Mater Research have recently discovered a new way to visualise breast cancer cells as they die. This new finding opens up opportunities to therapeutically target triple negative breast cancers.

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“While more research is needed to develop new therapeutic treatments, this research could provide hope for women in the future who face a lack of effective therapies available for their specific breast cancer.” Professor Monteith said.

The research team has discovered that supplies of oxygen to breast cancer can decline as a cancer grows. This can then trigger the breast cancer to become more aggressive and more resistant to therapies.

Professor Monteith and his team have found that a protein called TRPC1 regulates this process—and when this protein is shut off, some important breast cancer pathways are deactivated and, potentially, the cancer progression could be stopped.

Bec’s story

This exciting breakthrough has the potential to save the lives of women like Bec Leslie, a Mater nurse, whose life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2017.

“My assumption was that breast cancer was so well researched and supported with treatment and targeted therapies,” Bec said.

“To discover that your cancer doesn’t have a targeted therapy and it’s not widely researched is very scary.”

Bec has spent more than 20 years caring for others as a nurse at Mater Private Hospital Brisbane. She never suspected that one day she would be the one sitting in a hospital bed being treated by her friends and colleagues. Bec underwent a lumpectomy at Mater Private Hospital Brisbane, followed by high-intensive chemotherapy at Mater Cancer Care Centre every three weeks for six months.

“I thought “I’m hard-as-nails Bec and I’ll be fine” but chemotherapy was absolutely woeful,” she said.

“It was a lot harder than I could ever have prepared for but having my treatment at Mater, being cared for by people I knew, was very important to me.”

Bec said it was the staff at Mater who helped her through her darkest days.

How Mater helps

“My breast care nurse was an incredible support. She was my lifeline when I didn’t want to dump all my worries on my husband and young son.”

After a gruelling six months of treatment and recovery, Bec is now in ‘survivorship’. For her, this means vigilance and focusing on what’s important to her—family, friends and fitness.

“I heard that Mater is doing research into triple negative breast cancer, and it gives me so much confidence as I know how good we are with our research,” Bec says.

“Being diagnosed with breast cancer has taught me that it’s important to think about the bigger picture and how you can make a positive impact on the world. We need to support Mater researchers, they are changing the lives of people with breast cancer.”

Your support of the Mater Cars for Cancer lottery helps to drive vital medical research like Professor Monteith’s. It can mean the difference between life and death for future breast cancer patients. Help to change the lives of women like Bec by purchasing your tickets today.

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*Source: Breast Cancer Network Australia