Dr Andrew Woo, a research fellow in the Perkins Laboratory for Cancer Medicine has secured a $100,000 project grant from Cancer Council WA research funding.
His project is investigating a method for reprogramming metastatic tumour cells in breast cancer patients to make the tumours more susceptible to anti-cancer drugs.
Dr Woo who completed his postdoctoral training at the Harvard Medical School in the US said his research is building on knowledge about the abnormal protein activity in the tumour cells of metastatic breast cancer patients.
“This is high risk research but it’s a fascinating concept with potentially very powerful results which could benefit many people,” said Dr Woo.
“We are exploring how any given cell can be transformed into a stem cell (with the addition of different proteins), because this process is quite similar to how cancers develop and it may give us clues about how we can find a way to reprogram the cells.”
He said there is currently no effective therapy to treat breast cancers with stem cell like features which are linked to rapid tumour growth and metastatic progression.
“Our long term goal is to re-program the metastatic tumour cells into more treatable forms of cells but we need to focus on more basic laboratory research in the first instance which may take several years.
“The whole concept is still at a very basic level but there’s great potential for a therapy in this area.
“We just need years of research before it’s potentially translated into a therapy, which is why funding such as this from Cancer Council is so valuable.”
The grant was part of a record $4 million in research funding announced by Cancer Council last week.