Molecule could provide vital clues about why breast cancer spreads

Updated 29 Jun 2017.



One of our research grant recipients, Dr Archa Fox aims to discover more about how a particular molecule, known as Neat 1, is linked to breast cancer metastasis.

Dr Fox from the School of Human Sciences and the School of Molecular Sciences at The University of Western Australia and the Harry Perkins Institute has secured a $99,000 project grant as part of our $4 million in research funding announced in April this year.

“We know Neat 1 is over-abundant in highly metastatic breast cancer cells but questions remain unanswered about why that’s the case and how Neat1’s impact could potentially be controlled,” Dr Fox said.

Dr Fox’s project has significant potential to save lives given metastasis is the main cause of death for breast cancer patients.

“Overall our aim is to find how Neat1 works in breast cancer metastasis in order to enable the development of new drugs in the future that could either prevent Neat1 from spreading breast cancer or change its function.

“The design and development of targeted drugs to treat metastasis can take many years but this is a vital first step on this path,” she said.

Dr Fox is also hoping the project will produce a new tool to diagnose which breast cancers are likely to metastasise.

“This diagnostic tool would be really important because it will help to inform the type of chemotherapy a patient receives when they present with their original breast cancer.”

Working in collaboration with Professor Robin Anderson, from the Olivia Newton John Cancer Centre in Melbourne, who is an internationally acclaimed expert on breast cancer metastasis, Dr Fox is hoping the project will lead to more translational applications.

“This is an exciting research project for a number of reasons, one of which is the opportunity to work with Professor Anderson.

“We are jointly hoping to publish a paper this year with the results of preliminary studies and we also hope to inspire other researchers who might be interested in this connection between Neat 1 and breast cancer metastases.”

Dr Fox has been working in this research field for many years. Fifteen years ago she discovered paraspeckles, which are structures within the cell. Later in 2012, she discovered the importance of Neat 1 in building paraspeckles partly as a result of one of our fellowship awards.

Dr Fox said she was appreciative of the funds that have helped support her research.

“Institutions like Cancer Council WA play a big role in supporting people like me in the early stages of our career which is crucial. The early support really helps us make a big impact in the community through our research.”

Dr Fox also acknowledged the contribution of consumer advocate and cancer survivor Catherine Woulfe in her work, who she described as an inspiration.

Click here for further information about our research grant recipients.

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