A $200,000 grant has boosted research by University of
Otago Prof Parry Guilford which aims to develop a smarter,
better-targeted form of chemotherapy to attack breast cancer.
Prof Guilford, of the Otago biochemistry department, gave a
''big sigh of relief'' after gaining the funding, from the
Breast Cancer Research Partnership, for a two-year project he
This project is titled ''Synthetic lethal targeting of
lobular breast cancer'', and involves the second most common
form of the disease.
Healthy cells produce E-cadherin, a protein that suppresses
tumour growth, but the gene that produces E-cadherin is often
''switched off'' in cancer cells.
Prof Guilford and his team are hunting for compounds that
will destroy cells lacking E-cadherin, but not healthy cells
with normal levels of the protein.
The Otago team is also collaborating with the Walter and
Eliza Hall Institute and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre,
in Melbourne, to screen for drugs active against this target.
Prospects were ''extremely exciting'' and the new drugs
''should hit the tumour very hard'', he said.
Traditional chemotherapy kills rapidly dividing cells, but
Otago researchers predict that these new, more sharply
focused drugs would produce fewer side effects.
Prof Guilford hoped a new drug could be ready to begin
clinical trials within five years.
The Otago researchers were following some ''very strong
leads'' and had already identified a ''big reservoir'' of
possible drugs to test, he said.
The inactivation of tumour suppressor genes was the most
common of all genetic events in cancer but could not be
targeted by conventional therapy, because the tumour
suppressor protein had been lost from the cancer cell.
But the loss of these genes was predicted to create
vulnerabilities in the cancer cell that could nevertheless be
targeted with drugs, he said.
Prof Guilford is director of the Centre for Translational