Leeds University (Dr Matthews)

Breast Cancer UK has awarded a grant to Dr Laura Matthews, at Leeds University, to support her research which aims to identify chemicals that may be associated with increased breast cancer risk.

The project aims to identify which nuclear receptors play a role in breast cancer, and to identify and characterise chemicals which disrupt these receptors.

Nuclear receptors are proteins that when “activated” move into the cell nucleus, bind DNA and regulate gene expression (switch genes on or off). Activation is by binding to a specific “ligand” - a hormone or cell by-product, depending on the receptor in question.

It is already known that two nuclear receptors – oestrogen and progesterone receptors - are very important in diagnosing and treating breast cancer. Evidence is now emerging that in some breast tumours, the level of other nuclear receptors is altered. Understanding what causes these nuclear receptors to change, and how it might contribute to the development of breast cancer is important, in order to identify risk factors for breast cancer.

The research will measure the levels of all 48 nuclear receptors in normal breast tissue and breast tumour tissue samples, to help identify common nuclear receptor gene signatures. Predictions will be made to identify chemicals in the environment that regulate nuclear receptor expression and on metabolic pathways that are changed as a consequence. Chemicals predicted to interfere with nuclear receptors and pathways will be experimentally tested using human breast cancer cell lines and in tumour tissue collected from patients undergoing surgery.

The research will begin September 2017, and is expected to continue for around a year. For more details of Dr Matthews project please see our Science blog

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