Our research grants programme helps us to understand the causes of breast cancer so that one day we can prevent more people from being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Part of this programme supports emerging scientists in the field of breast cancer research.  With your support we have been able to fund a number of PhD students. We met up with one of our current PhD students, Alex Websdale from Leeds University to find out more about his research project and what he hopes we will learn from the project.

What’s this research about?

I want to understand how we can prevent the recurrence of a type of breast cancer called “triple negative” breast cancer. This cancer has a worse prognosis than other types of breast cancer and it cannot be treated with common hormonal therapies. Patients with “triple negative” breast cancer need to undergo non-hormone targeting chemotherapy, which may have worse side-effects.

Tell us more!

A previous study has shown that certain products of cholesterol breakdown in our body, called oxysterols, can increase the production of chemotherapy drug export pumps in the brain. Production of these pumps in cancer cells makes them “chemotherapy resistant” and no longer respond to chemotherapy, making recurrence more likely. I want to explore if patients could benefit from a reduction in cholesterol when they are undergoing chemotherapy.

Ultimately, with my investigations I want to have an impact on identifying how these cancer cells can be targeted with therapy, preventing secondary breast cancer and increasing survival rates.

What are Oxysterols?

Oxysterols are by-products of cholesterol breakdown. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance made by the body and found in some foods. It is essential for good health and is found in every cell in your body. However, having a high level of cholesterol in your blood can harm health. The difference between oxysterols and cholesterol is the addition of an oxygen and a hydrogen to the molecule.

What is the connection to breast cancer?

Tumour cells respond to high internal levels of oxysterols by producing pumps in their cell walls to push oxysterols out again. However, these pumps also remove helpful substances such as chemotherapy agents, which can lead to chemotherapy resistance in cancer cells. Oxysterols are also associated with the promotion of secondary tumour growths called metastases.

Why are Oxysterols such an interesting research field?

It was only recently that oxysterols have been linked to cancer and there’s a lot still to investigate. Also, as oxysterols are a product of cholesterol breakdown, this may suggest a link between high cholesterol diets and worse breast cancer outcomes.

What discoveries have led to your current work?

A study from our lab has shown that triple negative breast cancers are more responsive to oxysterol signalling than some other breast cancer types. If oxysterols act through similar methods on breast cancer cells as cells in the brain, this could suggest that triple negative breast cancers are more likely to become chemotherapy resistant through oxysterols than other types of breast cancer.

How did you become interested in this specific project?

Cancer research has always been a field that has interested me, though I didn’t have much experience of it during my undergraduate degree. When looking for PhDs this was a great opportunity to work in the field of cancer with an interesting concept behind it.

What difference will your project make?

Hopefully it could lead to improvements in treatment for non-hormone responsive cancers and help reduce that chance of breast cancer recurrence following initial diagnosis.

Thanks to Alex for sharing this background to his research project.  To find out more about our current and past research projects see our research.

Our grants programme will be re-opening in Spring 2020, you can find out more information on apply for a grant.


Related Articles

30 July 2021

Top up your Vitamin D this summer

Having a low level of vitamin D is linked with breast cancer. Making sure you have a healthy level of Vitamin D is a great way to stay well and...

Read full story

23 July 2021

Microplastics and breast cancer: could there be a link?

Microplastics are often in the news these days. They are mostly discussed in terms of pollution of the natural environment, particularly the oceans. In this blog, we consider some specific...

Read full story

19 July 2021

Constant exposure carries long-term health consequences

"If you're going to buy drinks, buy them in glass bottles rather than plastic bottles, avoid canned food, and refuse thermal till receipts ... simple things can help minimise our...

Read full story

25 May 2021

UK Chemicals Strategy: a golden opportunity to strengthen public protections from harmful chemicals!

This month,  Breast Cancer UK joined with 26 Public Health and Environmental NGO's to call for actions that ensure the future UK Chemicals strategy delivers strong and effective public protections from harmful chemicals.  Strong chemical regulations are vital for our...

Read full story

A £10 donation today will help fund our research into the causes of breast cancer so we can prevent breast cancer for future generations.

 

Donate £10

A donation of £25 can go toward IT support which helps us deliver live webinars on the risk factors associated with breast cancer and practical tips that help people reduce their risk

Donate £25

Your donation of £100 can help train one of our PhD students, who work on vital research which aims to understand the causes of breast cancer and identify risk factors.

Donate £100

Just want to help in some way? donate an amount that feels right for you

Start Your Donation

Donate Now

Make a Donation

Share:

My One Time Donation

I want to make a one time donation of

Thank you. You’re just a few steps away from completing your donation.

+25% with Gift Aid

If you are a UK taxpayer, the value of your gift can be increased by 25% under the Gift Aid scheme at no extra cost to you.

This means that your donation of £100.00 could be worth an extra £25.00 to us, and it doesn't cost you a penny!

My Monthly Donation

I want to make a monthly donation

You’re just a few steps away from completing your donation.

+25% with Gift Aid

If you are a UK taxpayer, the value of your gift can be increased by 25% under the Gift Aid scheme at no extra cost to you.

This means that your donation of £100.00 could be worth an extra £25.00 to us, and it doesn't cost you a penny!

One Time Donation Monthly Donation
Make a donation with Gift Aid

Gift Aid is reclaimed by the Breast Cancer UK from the tax that I pay for the current tax year. If I pay less Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax than the amount of Gift Aid claimed on all my donations, it is my responsibility to pay any difference. Breast Cancer UK will reclaim 25p in tax back for every £1 I donate.

Your payment details

Your donation amount

Donation Allocation (Optional)

Additional Comments (Optional)

Stay in Touch

We’d love to keep you posted on how your support can make a difference to Breast Cancer UK and the exciting ways you can support us in the future.

Please tick if you’re happy to receive information from us by:

By completing an online donation, your data will be handled in accordance with the Breast Cancer UK’s privacy policy, and the privacy policy of our payment processing supplier BBMS (a Blackbaud company).

Thank You Wall

If you donate over £50, as a way of saying thank you for your donation, we would like to feature your donation on our virtual thank you wall on our website.

Donations will only feature on the wall for up to two months depending on the level of donations we receive.

You must fill out all required fields before paying.

Processing...

Need help making your donation?

If you need help to make a donation or have any questions about making one, please contact us…

Call 08456801322