Leeds University (Dr Thorne)

Breast Cancer UK has awarded a grant to Dr James Thorne, at Leeds University, to support his research which aims to develop a new method (using mass spectrometry) to measure accumulation of oxysterols in human breast tissue.

Some oxysterols can interfere with endocrine signalling and may be formed enzymatically, at sites of hypoxia (low oxygen in tissues), or when dietary cholesterol is exposed to high temperatures during frying or food processing. Emerging evidence indicates that tumours that develop in a high oxysterol environment may be more resistant to chemotherapy and more likely to spread (metastasize).

Oxysterols can promote oestrogen positive breast tumour growth through activation of the oestrogen receptor, and increase metastasis of triple negative breast tumours through other routes. Oxysterols can be readily removed from the diet and the activity of oxysterols produced in the body may be repressed by a diet rich in plant-sterols (e.g. vegetable oils, nuts, grains, peas and beans).

The project will aim to develop a method that can detect the accumulation of several different oxysterols in breast tissue samples. This will complement on going work that is investigating whether high oxysterol content of tumours increases the likelihood of unsuccessful cancer treatment. The work also aims to demonstrate if oxysterol concentrations in breast tumours can be reduced by dietary changes.

The research will begin in July 2016, and is expected to continue for around a year. Dr Thomas Hughes and Dr Lisa Marshall will also be involved in the project.

 

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