World experts collaborate on protein research to find breast cancer breakthrough

Published: 18 July 2007 at 13:35

A group of 40 of the world’s top scientists and clinicians have attended a forum in Cambridge to discuss ideas for mapping out proteins in cells which will one day, hopefully, bring about a major break through in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The inaugural Mammary Gland Proteome Initiative, was jointly arranged by Dr Louise Alldridge, a cancer research scientist from The Helen Rollason Cancer Charity Laboratory at Anglia Ruskin University, and Professor Serhiy Souchelnytskyi from the Karolinska Biomics Research Centre in Sweden.

The global mapping of proteins, or proteomics, is an important follow on from the recent coding and sequencing of the Human genome (genomics). The objective of the two-day workshop was to create a platform for the exchange of ideas and coordination of mammary gland proteome studies that go beyond the boundaries of most laboratory and the clinical environments.

Speaking of the success of the workshop, staged at Clare College at the University of Cambridge and sponsored by Astra Zeneca, Dr Alldridge said:

“Despite significant improvements in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, more than two out of three patients still succumb to the disease. New information and more efficient tools are needed for diagnosis and therapy, in particular, tools that can improve the early detection and diagnosis and increase overall survival rates.”

“The sequencing of the genome has created opportunities for us to now pursue the study of proteins in a novel, systematic and arguably very efficient way.”

“We will be looking at mapping proteins in a healthy breast and compare these to the proteins in a breast that is diseased. We know that proteins are dynamic and incredibly complicated.  The big issue for us is to determine how and which modifications do ultimately cause cancer.”

The group of delegates was made up of people who work in the field of breast cancer who want to look at the issue of proteomics, some of who were relatively new to the study.

Dr Alldridge continued:

“Just bringing everyone together has made this event a success in its own right.  Rather than having different experts around the world working individually on this issue, we are entering into a new method of working to try to make things happen more quickly.  If one idea from this collaborative effort proves to be a breakthrough then we will have made significant progress in this area.”

“We are doing this to make life better for the future, to try to understand the disease of breast cancer and try to solve the problem for the next generation.”

Dr Alldridge is based at the Helen Rollason Cancer Care Research Laboratory at Anglia Ruskin University. She is leading a team of scientists who that are conducting ground breaking research into cancer which is changing the way the illness is treated. The team is looking at ways of stopping breast cancer cells from moving to other parts of the body. If the tumour cells stay in the breast they will not prove fatal – but if they move to vital organs the cancer will be much more difficult to treat.  The scientists – who are funded by the Helen Rollason Heal Cancer Charity – are looking for early signs that the cells will move. Eventually this work could lead to a new treatment being developed to block cells moving.