University of East Anglia scientist could help ensure everyone diagnosed with breast cancer in the future lives

Professor Dylan Edwards. Photo: UEA

Professor Dylan Edwards. Photo: UEA - Credit: UEA

Research at the University of East Anglia in Norwich could help ensure anyone diagnosed with breast cancer after 2050 survives the disease.

One of the university's leading scientists has been awarded a grant of more than £90,000 by research charity Breast Cancer Now, to investigate how the body's immune system could be harnessed to recognise and target breast cancer.

The immune system can distinguish the body's own cells from foreign cells, and destroy any that could be potentially harmful.

However, in many cases where breast cancer has spread around the body – known as secondary breast cancer – the immune system fails to recognise and attack migrating breast cancer cells.

Secondary breast cancer is incurable, and the majority of the 11,500 women who die as a result of breast cancer each year in the UK will have seen their disease spread.

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In the east of England, more than 5,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and around 1,000 die as a result of the disease each year.

With Breast Cancer Now funding, Professor Dylan Edwards will lead a three-year project with PhD student Kate Makin, to uncover the intrinsic workings of the immune system's response to breast cancer.

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Professor Edwards has previously found a molecule called MMP8 can prevent tumour growth and spread, and cancer cells which contain MMP8 grow less aggressively. Using mouse models, the team will take samples from tumours with and without MMP8, analysing how its presence affects immune cells.

Professor Edwards said: 'We are extremely grateful for support from Breast Cancer Now for our new project, which we hope will unlock how this important enzyme in our natural immune defences – MMP8 – works to suppress the growth and spread of breast cancer.'

Dr Richard Berks, senior research communications officer at Breast Cancer Now, said: 'If we are to stop men and women dying of breast cancer, we must be innovative in our approaches to preventing its spread around the body.

'Our ambition is that by 2050, everyone who develops breast cancer will live.

'Professor Edwards' project could help bring us one step closer to this goal.'

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