$10m breast cancer research program aims for zero deaths by 2030

A NEW $10 million research program, spearheaded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, is working towards zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030. Associate professor Elgene Lim, researcher at the Garvan Institute reveals some of the exciting advances.


Prof Lim is a breast cancer researcher at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and medical oncologist at St Vincent’s Hospital.


He is one of two rising stars in breast cancer research who have been tasked with progressing “big picture” research projects with the potential to deliver breakthroughs in breast cancer research.


Research has provided huge leaps in terms of breast cancer survival rates. But with this still the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian women, Prof Lim is focused on overcoming resistance to endocrine treatments in hormone receptor positive breast cancer.


“The breast cancers that express hormone receptors make up about 70 per cent of breast cancers which is the most common subtype”, Prof Lim says.


In these cases, the hormone receptors when activated, cause the cancer cells to grow uncontrollably, and traditional therapies have focused on drugs that turn these receptors off, and changed the natural history of this disease. However, resistance to these drugs has become a major clinical challenge.


“Unfortunately cancers can outsmart traditional endocrine therapies, resulting in some patients to relapse. Our research is focused on better understanding how tumours evade endocrine therapies, and coming up with new treatment strategies.”


The importance of breast screening

He is looking at re-purposing other cancer drugs, including drugs used for prostate cancer, and is examining combinations of endocrine therapy with novel drugs, and treatments aimed at reprogramming and transforming hormone receptors from bad to good actors.


Prof Lim and Associate Professor Sherene Loi, researcher and oncologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre whose research looks at genomics and immunotherapy, were named Endowed Chairs Awardees of a new $10 million program funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s Research Academy.


Prof Lim says the 10-year research grant is a game-changer that could alter traditional mindsets and allow researchers to think “transformatively for the long term”.


National Breast Cancer Foundation CEO professor Sarah Hosking launched the Endowed Chairs Program at Sydney Grammar School on March 16


“Our Endowed Chairs Program is geared towards advancing blue-sky breast cancer research projects that will have maximum impact. This means the benefits of the research will be passed to the women and men affected much faster,” she says.


Article was originally published in the Southern Courier on 27 March 2017.