Tracking earlier detection of breast cancer

Two Western professors’ research into the early detection of breast cancer are part of eight innovative new projects across the country that will share more than $3.2 million in funding from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Led by Leonard Luyt, assistant professor in Chemistry, his project (Molecular Imaging of Highly Invasive Breast Cancer Subsets using Novel Peptide Mimetics) will aim to capitalize on the finding that a molecular interaction between two molecules that can predict aggressive disease that has the potential to spread. His team will develop imaging agents which will allow for non-invasive detection of breast cancer – especially aggressive or metastatic tumors – at an earlier stage.

Biochemistry professor Peter Rogan’s research (Detection of mutations in gene variants of uncertain significance in inherited breast and ovarian cancer) will identify genetic variants within currently unsequenced gene regions and other less common early-onset breast cancer genes, to predict which of these variants might be associated with causing of cancer.

While mutations that disrupt the function of the breast cancer-linked genes are common to all patients with a family history of breast cancer, in as many as 90 per cent of all breast cancer cases, no deleterious mutation can be recognized. The hypothesis is that many harmful mutations have not been recognized because they occur in parts of these genes that have not been analyzed.

A total of 41 proposals were submitted by research teams from across Canada, with the eight projects selected on the basis of scientific excellence and potential impact on breast cancer. Involving multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary teams, the announcement brings more than $1.3 million in partner organization contributions to this important area of breast cancer research.

“Early detection gives patients and doctors better options for dealing with malignancies,” said Deborah Dubenofsky, National Board Chair, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. “The sooner we become aware of the presence of a tumor, the sooner we can respond with appropriate treatment.”