Kildare researcher behind breast cancer treatment findings

Medicine

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Kildare researcher behind breast cancer treatment findings

Dr Louise Walsh

A cancer researcher from Kildare has helped developed a potential new treatment approach for a form of breast cancer which can be difficult to treat. The BREAST-PREDICT researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland focused on a form of cancer which affects around one in eight breast cancer patients.

Dr Louise Walsh from Maynooth, joint author of the paper with Dr Kathryn Haley, spoke of her pride at having been part of the team, funded by the Irish Cancer Society and Breast Cancer Now, which made the discovery paving the way for more personalised treatment of this form of cancer.

Louise, who was supervised by Prof Darran O’Connor and Dr Tríona Ní Chonghaile in RCSI said the type of cancer targeted – Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer – has been “massively understudied to date, leaving patients without tailored treatment options.”

Of the exciting discovery, she said: “To know the long hours I spent in the lab have identified novel research findings that will hopefully ensure a better treatment path for patients with this cancer is incredible.

“I’m proud to have played a role in discovering a potential way to target this cancer, and improve outcomes for patients in the future. No one is unaffected by cancer in Ireland, but research is the tool we have to ensure that more people can overcome a cancer diagnosis in their life.”

This new treatment*, a combination approach which comprises two different drugs, blocks molecules in breast cancer cells that control cell growth and survival. The researchers suggest that this treatment approach may be useful for patients who no longer respond to standard therapies. The team are now in the final stages of testing this treatment in the laboratory, supported by additional funding from the Susan G Komen’s Foundation, before they hope to advance to clinical trial stage.

Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer accounts for roughly one in eight newly diagnosed breast cancer cases. When caught early, treatments with surgery, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy can be effective, but this type of breast cancer can be more difficult to detect at these early stages.  As the cancer advances it can spread to other organs and become resistant to chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

The new findings were unveiled today as the Irish Cancer Society urges the public to get involved in Cups Against Breast Cancer, a fundraising campaign which aims to raise money for breast cancer research and support services for people affected by breast cancer.

Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, Dr Robert O’Connor said, “New treatment options for this cancer subtype are urgently needed, so this discovery is hugely important for patients who might benefit from a tailored approach to their treatment.

“This research is an example of the vital work of BREAST-PREDICT, made possible by the country’s support of fundraising campaigns like Cups Against Breast Cancer. This October, members of the public can help fund more lifesaving cancer research and free services for people affected by breast cancer by hosting a coffee morning on October 11.”

For more information on Cups Against Breast Cancer see www.cancer.ie