ABOUT BREAST CANCER
Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the breast grow in an uncontrolled way. Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in women of all ages.
One in 8 Australian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by their 85th birthday. Thanks to medical research the 5 year survival for breast cancer has improved from 72% in 1987 to 90% in 2016, but there is more work to be done.
• A lump, lumpiness or thickening in the breast or under the arm
• New pain that doesn’t go away or pain that is only in one breast
• Dimpling, puckering or redness
• Changes to the nipple, such as inversion, discharge, bleeding, reddening or patchy areas, or itchy or ulcerated skin
• Changes to the shape and size of the breast
• Changes to the skin of the breast
• Changes in skin temperature of the breast
• Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
• Inherited genetic factors such as BRAC1 or BRAC2
• Early menstruation
• Late menopause
• Exposure to hormones from oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy
• Never having given birth
• Giving birth for the first time over the age of 30
• Dense breast tissue
• Obesity, alcohol consumption, a lack of exercise and a poor diet
• A lumpectomy to remove the tumour and a small area of healthy tissue around it
• A mastectomy to remove the entire breast and sometimes surrounding lymph nodes
• Radiation therapy uses x-rays to destroy cancer cells. It can be used before or after surgery to reduce the tumour size and make surgery easier
• Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to help destroy cancer cells in the breast, as well as breast cancer cells that may have spread to other areas of your body
• Biological therapy (or immunotherapy) helps the body's immune system fight cancer
• Hormonal therapies are treatments for women who have hormone receptors on their breast cancer cells. Hormonal therapies lower the level of female hormones in the body or change the way the body responds to female hormones
By understanding how breast cancer functions on a cellular level, we will gain insights into better methods and treatments to stop the growth and spread of these diseases. Our laboratories have made several critical discoveries involving DNA-altering proteins that cut off the supply of blood and nutrition to tumour sites.
ABOUT TRIPLE NEGATIVE BREAST CANCER
It is now universally acknowledged that breast cancer is not one form of cancer, but many different subtypes of cancer. One of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer is known as ‘triple negative’ breast cancer.
Most breast cancer subtypes are diagnosed based on the presence, or lack of, three ‘receptors’. These are estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). We now have drugs that can target these receptors and switch off the hormones that feed these types of cancer. The term ‘triple negative’ refers to the lack of receptors for all three of these drug targets.
This means that triple negative breast cancer does not respond to the most widely used breast cancer therapies. Instead, triple negative breast cancer treatment usually involves surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Tragically, if the triple negative cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it becomes resistant to chemotherapy and the prognosis becomes dire for patients. More than one in every ten breast cancers are found to be triple negative.
This is a key area which benefits from the funds raised by the Hawaiian Walk for Women's Cancer, to help the researchers at the Perkins continue to discover lifesaving discoveries that will find better treatments for these hard to treat women's cancers!
HOW PERKINS CAN HELP
The Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research is focused on finding solutions for poor prognosis cancers, such as triple negative breast cancer.
In 2016, the Perkins announced that pre-clinical investigations into nanoparticle drug delivery technology had produced promising results. Nanoparticles are tiny objects that can be used to deliver anti-cancer medicine to individual cells. The nanoparticles developed at the Perkins have a molecule that functions like a GPS navigator and sends the anti-cancer medicine contained inside the nanoparticle, straight to the tumour site. Ultimately, this means that the treatment is more effective and has less side effects.