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Changing the Ways We Engineer Cancer Therapeutics

July 9, 2018

Imagine a world where we view and treat cancer the same way we view and treat other chronic diseases, like diabetes. A world that is able to treat cancer patients in a way that does not strip them of their ability to live life day to day the way cancer treatments do today. ChE Professor Debra Auguste may have found a way to make this possible. 

In a recent publication in Nature Communication titled “Peptide density targets and impedes triple negative breast cancer metastasis”, Professor Auguste shows us a different way to approach cancer treatment. Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide; the most common form of cancer being breast cancer (National Cancer Institute). Nearly all deaths caused by breast cancer result from metastasis (a formation of secondary tumors in distant organs). There is a 20-30% chance that a cancer diagnosis will be triple negative, meaning cancer cells do not express the estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. There are specific therapies that target each of those. Triple negative breast cancer patients rely on chemotherapy to treat their disease. This treatment takes an extreme toll on cancer patients; side effects can include things like hair loss, anemia, nausea and vomiting, and more.

Over four years of research has led Professor Auguste to this moment of being able to share her discoveries on an issue that affects the nation. She takes a prophylactic approach to her research; looking at the ways we can influence gene pathways that will result in tumor regression and effect metastasis. In addition, she focuses on cell communication, which was often the most challenging part of her research because cells are not static - they respond to their environment. Professor Auguste dreams of a world where we are able to treat cancer patients without using toxic chemicals that reduce patient’s quality of life. She believes that one day we will look back and think of the ways we are fighting cancer now as “barbaric”. Her research may be a step towards making that possible.

Please read Professor August’s publication here: http://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-05035-5