Australian foundation targets zero breast cancer deaths by 2030

Matt Woodley

13/02/2020 2:30:51 PM

The $100 million plan aims to determine why one in 10 women don’t survive beyond five years after diagnosis.

Doctor examining a mammogram.
GPs play a crucial role in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.

The research strategy will focus on funding for immunotherapy research, more personalised therapies and prevention programs.
National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) CEO Professor Sarah Hosking says if successful, it could mean zero breast cancer deaths among women by the end of the decade.
‘There is currently no data coordination between medical facilities and clinics,’ she said.
‘This means it is hard to find who is most at risk of dying from the disease.’
Dr Alia Kaderbhai, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Breast Medicine network, told newsGP breast cancer is ‘undoubtedly’ one of the biggest issues facing Australia’s health system and warrants further attention and research.
‘Advances in diagnosis and treatment have seen a significant improvement in five-year survival rates, particularly for early stage breast cancer but of course there is always room for improvement. This is certainly an aspirational goal, but we need access to genotyping and targeted therapy for high risk disease,’ she said.
‘GPs play a crucial role in diagnosis and treatment, and are valuable members of the multidisciplinary team. We need to consider all the variables contributing to cancer-related death – patient factors included – and we also need to differentiate between low- and high-risk disease.
‘We also play a very important role in risk reduction, especially when it comes to modifiable risk factors.’
NBCF-funded researchers, led by Associate Professor Pilar Blancafor, have also been investigating the potential for CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to help advance potential new breast cancer treatments.
CRISPR has the ability to correct abnormal gene expression, thereby changing the levels of individual proteins in cells, and changing how cells function.
Associate Professor Blancafor’s team recently made a breakthrough by developing a completely synthetic delivery system, which for the first time can safely transport CRISPR-Cas9 to the targeted breast cancer cells.
In the study, the delivery system helped ‘switch on’ two genes that typically in breast cancer are not as active as they should be, which led to reduced tumour growth in mouse models.
‘We are excited about the future potential of this system to help reduce tumour growth in women with breast cancer … [and] importantly, there was no observable toxicity,’ Associate Professor Blancafort said.
‘[However], further studies are required before we can use this technology clinically in humans.’
Other NBCF-supported projects underway include research into genetic abnormalities that could help predict patient outcomes and determine optimal cancer treatments, measuring cancer DNA in the bloodstream to monitor treatment progress, and documenting breast density in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to better predict their breast cancer risk.
Australian women have a 91% breast cancer survival rate, but 9% of those diagnosed die within five years. More than 3000 die from breast cancer each year.

With AAP.
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