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Norwich scientists given £100,000 to find new ways to stop spread of breast cancer

PUBLISHED: 06:41 17 December 2019 | UPDATED: 06:41 17 December 2019

Dr Stephen Robinson working in his lab at the UEA, who has just been awarded £100,000 to fund his research by  Breast Cancer Now. Picture: Denise Bradley

Dr Stephen Robinson working in his lab at the UEA, who has just been awarded £100,000 to fund his research by Breast Cancer Now. Picture: Denise Bradley

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Scientists in Norwich have been awarded £100,000 to conduct potentially life saving research, which could change the way doctors treat breast cancer.

Charity Breast Cancer Now awarded the money to researchers from the Quadram Institute and the University of East Anglia, to investigate how bacteria found in the gut might be used to stop the spread of breast cancer.

With the new funding, Dr Stephen Robinson and PhD student Alastair McKee, will try to uncover whether using antibiotics or probiotics to change the composition of bacteria in the gut could help prevent the disease spreading around the body, where it becomes incurable.

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It is hoped that the research could help the team develop a simple, inexpensive probiotic drink, which could be used to reduce the risk of breast cancer spreading and provide a boost for the patient's immune system.

Dr Robinson said that although antibiotics were routinely used alongside chemotherapy to prevent the spread of infection, he hoped the new research would shine a light on how they could be better utilised during treatment.

He added: "Harnessing the immune system to protect against the spread of cancer is a promising avenue for new treatments. If manipulating 'good' bacteria in the gut with antibiotics or probiotics could help to prevent breast cancer spreading, they could provide a cheap and well-tolerated addition to existing treatments."

Dr Kotryna Temcinaite, research manager at Breast Cancer Now, said the research could be revolutionary for the thousands of people affected by the disease each year.

She said: "It's exciting that Dr Robinson's research could help us find ways to reduce the chance of breast cancer spreading and becoming incurable by altering the bacteria found in the gut. With around 11,500 women still dying each year in the UK, we urgently need to find new ways to prevent breast cancer spreading and to treat it effectively when it does. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we hope this study could help identify antibiotics or probiotics that may change the gut bacteria, and in turn the immune system, to help stop breast cancer spreading."

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