Top Perth researchers use $890,000 for brain and breast cancer research

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Professor Pilar Blancafort at Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.
494172pa Professor Pilar Blancafort at Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.

TWO top researchers at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research will use an Australian first $890,000 grant to find a cure for brain and breast cancer.

National Breast Cancer Foundation and Cure Brain Cancer Foundation funded the grant going towards a first of its kind simultaneous research project on both cancers.

Researchers Pilar Blancafort and Anna Nowak will lead the project and develop their body of research in four years testing their findings on humans in five to 10 years.

“We will conduct research to prevent certain genes being turned on or off in both breast and brain cancer by making new tools to manipulate gene behaviour,” Professor Blancafort said.

“These genes normally enable the cancer to repair its damaged DNA after treatment with radiotherapy or chemotherapy but by turning off the DNA repair mechanisms, cancer cells can no longer repair themselves, making those cancer cells more likely to die as a result of treatment.”

Researchers will use gene editing tool CRISPR-dCas9 to conduct the project – a breakthrough technology that allows scientists to precisely control which genes are expressed in a cell.

Professor Blancafort said they hoped to one day launch treatments that would target the cancers specifically, leaving the normal cells unaffected.

“By forcing the silencing of these common set of genes, we will make these cancers vulnerable to specific chemotherapies and radiotherapy regimes – this should mean that treatments are more effective in killing the cancer cells,” she said.