Offaly-born research scholar first in the world to test new drug in Breast Cancer

Damian Moran

Reporter:

Damian Moran

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To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Offaly-born research scholar Patricia Clearly is carrying out research funded by the Irish Cancer Society that reveals how breast cancer cells survive and become resistant to treatment at NUI Galway.

To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Offaly-born research scholar Patricia Clearly is carrying out research funded by the Irish Cancer Society that reveals how breast cancer cells survive and become resistant to treatment at NUI Galway.

The laboratory-based research by Patricia Cleary is the first in the world to test a new drug in Breast Cancer that is hoped to enhance how chemotherapy works.

Cancer cells often grow rapidly in the body, especially in tumors, and this kind of environment can often make them become “stressed” due to a shortage of nutrients/oxygen. Cancer cells can also come under pressure and become “stressed” during chemotherapy treatment.

However, cancer cells have adapted ways of coping with theses stresses. One way of adapting and helping the cell to survive is by increasing the amount of a survival factor called XBP1s, which has been shown to help breast cancer cells survive and become resistant to treatment.

Ms Clearly said, “I am looking at a new drug that no one in the world is currently working with in Breast Cancer that stops the survival factor XBP1s from working in breast cancer cells. Initial findings from my study are very positive and show that if I take the survival factor away, the cells grow much slower and that it may aid current chemotherapeutic drugs to kill breast cancer more efficiently.”

She added, “While the research is only in its early stages, I believe, if we continue to see such positive results with this drug it will eventually allow us to create treatments that can be used alongside chemotherapy to increase the likelihood of patient survival. I’m very thankful for the prestigious funding by the Irish Cancer Society worth €120,000 over three years, which will allow me to explore this area in-depth.”

Professor John Fitzpatrick, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, which is the largest voluntary funder of cancer research in Ireland said, “We continue to make significant advances in breast cancer research at home and internationally with access to new and novel drugs for exploratory research that we hope will one-day lead to improved treatment for patients. We are encouraged by Ms Cleary’s preliminary data at NUIG that looks at how new drugs enhance chemotherapy treatment.”

He added, “One in ten women in Ireland will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. In 2012, the Irish Cancer Society invested a significant sum of more than €2.8 million in cancer research, of which €150,000 is being directed towards breast cancer research, to encourage advances that will impact and improve the lives of those affected by cancer.”

Throughout the month of October, the Irish Cancer Society is calling on people across Ireland to come together and Get the Girls to raise funds for vital breast cancer research in Ireland. The Get the Girls campaign is a fun way for women to get together and raise money for breast cancer research. There are so many ways to take part: you can Get the Girls ‘round with a girly movie night or come dine with me dinner party, Get the Girls active with a sponsored cycle, Get the Girls @ work with a cake sale in the office – every activity counts!

This year, the Irish Cancer Society launch a new Collaborative Cancer Research Centre on breast cancer, called Breast-Predict which will see an investment of €7.5 million over 5 years from the Society into breast cancer research – this is one place where money you raise will go.

If you would like to organise your own Get the Girls event, make a donation or find more information visit www.getthegirls.ie or CallSave 1850 60 60 60. For further information on the Irish Cancer Society’s programme or to make a donation, visit www.cancer.ie or contact the Irish Cancer Society helpline on 1800 200 700.