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Queen's University breast cancer discovery paves way for improved treatment

Dr Niamh Buckley of Queen's University Belfast who led the research team in the cancer study
Mairead Holland

A SIMPLE test could be on the way to ensure breast cancer patients receive the most appropriate treatment, after a discovery by a team at Queen's University Belfast.

The study, funded by charity Breast Cancer Now, is related to chemotherapy for patients with triple negative breast cancer.

More than 8,000 women in the UK are diagnosed each year with this group of cancers which often has poor outcomes.

The research team, led by Dr Niamh Buckley, found that high levels of protein NUP98 are linked to a poorer response to anthracycline chemotherapy.

It is hoped the findings could lead to a simple test for the protein, helping to identify patients who are unlikely to benefit from this form of chemotherapy and who should be given alternative treatment as early as possible.

Dr Buckley, a Breast Cancer Now Fellow at the School of Pharmacy, said: “While we know some women respond very well to the current treatment, others receive very limited clinical benefit and experience all of the side effects associated with chemotherapy."

The study also pointed out that relapses in triple negative patients are very common within three years of diagnosis and that patients' survival chances may be closely linked to their response to first-line chemotherapy.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, described it as a "very promising discovery".

“With triple negative patients still severely lacking in targeted treatments, it remains one of the greatest areas of unmet need in breast cancer and we urgently need to find new and kinder options to help stop more women dying," she said.

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