New breakthrough in breast cancer treatment

New hope for breast cancer patients

Stock image of a mammogram x-ray test. Credit: Tyler Olson/

A recent scientific advancement has raised hopes of long-term recovery and preventing relapses in breast cancer patients.

In a ground-breaking study conducted by The Institute of Cancer Research in London, revealed on the journal Cancer Discovery’s platform, researchers have found a way to prevent breast cancer cells from entering a dormant state, only to re-emerge years later.

This discovery opens doors to cutting-edge treatments aimed at eradicating breast cancer for good.

A deeper look into ER+ breast cancer

This research zeroes in on oestrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer, constituting 80 per cent of all breast cancer cases. ER+ breast cancer thrives on oestrogen and thrives under its influence.

The common course of treatment involves a mix of therapies and surgery, customised according to individual patient needs. Nevertheless, these treatments sometimes cause cancer cells to enter a ‘hibernation’ phase instead of dying off.

Unlocking the secrets of dormancy

The London-based team’s investigations have identified the role of an enzyme called G9a in this process. They discovered that blocking G9a stops cancer cells from becoming dormant. Importantly, it also eradicates cells that are already in hibernation.

A report from Metro highlighted Luca Magnani, a professor of epigenetic plasticity at the institute, who explined, ‘After surgery to remove primary oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer, patients are given five to 10 years of hormone therapy, which aims to kill any remaining cancer cells.

‘We know that this doesn’t work for all patients though, as their breast cancer can return years, or even decades later.

He added: ‘We wanted to better understand why breast cancer does return so we can hopefully find ways to stop it – so people don’t have to live in fear or face the devastating news of a relapse.

‘Our research identified a key mechanism used by cancer cells to evade therapy by remaining in a dormant state, hibernating before they “wake up” years later and begin to rapidly divide again.’

A future without fear

The significance of this research is not lost on experts and advocates alike. Dr Tayyaba Jiwani, science engagement manager at Cancer Research UK, which funded the study, underscored the importance of understanding cancer cell dormancy.

She said: Although at an early stage, the findings reveal potential new targets for the development of innovative treatments that prevent breast cancer from coming back.’

This research offers a beacon of hope, potentially paving the way to treatments that ensure breast cancer’s return is a thing of the past.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.