Oxysterols and triple negative breast cancer | Breast Cancer UK

Oxysterols and triple negative breast cancer

Breast Cancer UK is pleased to award a grant of £45,000 to Dr James Thorne at the University of Leeds that will go towards funding a 3 year PhD studentship to investigate the role of oxysterols in promoting triple negative breast cancer progression. The University of Leeds will also contribute £45,000 to support the studentship. Dr Hanne Røberg-Larsen from the University of Oslo will co-supervise the project. The studentship was awarded to Mr Alex Websdale who will begin his studentship in early October, 2018.

Summary of the research: Oxysterols as functional biomarkers of Triple Negative Breast Cancer relapse

Oxysterols are a group of chemicals produced by the oxidation of cholesterol. This can happen when food is prepared using high temperature methods such as frying, or through reactions in the body. Certain oxysterols may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, its recurrence and spread. Dr Thorne was previously awarded a Breast Cancer UK grant which enabled him and his collaborator Dr Røberg-Larsen to develop a method to measure multiple oxysterols in very small samples of breast tissue. Dr Thorne's PhD student Alex Websdale will use this technique to investigate whether different oxysterols are present in different breast tumour types, and explore if individual oxysterols could predict breast cancer relapse. He will also investigate the source of oxysterols by measuring these compounds in different cell types found in breast cancers. His research will also investigate whether a diet rich in fruit and vegetables can alter oxysterols produced by the body, thereby helping to prevent breast cancer recurrence.

Details of the Research

Many breast cancers are thought to be preventable through diet and lifestyle choices, but the mechanisms for prevention remain unclear. Obesity and elevated cholesterol are risk factors for breast cancer initiation and progression, but exact mechanisms are not understood fully. Cholesterol levels are influenced by a variety of dietary and lifestyle factors, and high LDL-cholesterol has been linked to failure of cancer therapy.

The cholesterol metabolic pathway is altered in breast cancer, leading to increased production of products, known as oxysterols. It is thought certain oxysterols promote tumour progression. Non-cancer host cells such as fat cells (adipocytes), support cells (fibroblasts) and immune system cells (macrophages) convert cholesterol into oxysterols and the presence of these non-cancer cell types in the tumour micro-environment has been linked to cancer spread and drug-resistance.

This project will explore the hypothesis that oxysterols, released by non-cancer host cells into the tumour micro-environment, are taken up by adjacent breast cancer cells, eventually leading to chemotherapy resistance and tumour spread. As oxysterols may promote tumour progression, interventions which interfere with their production may prevent breast cancer relapse. This work will also investigate whether a dietary intervention can alter oxysterols produced by host cells, thereby preventing breast cancer recurrence.

Discover More

For details of Dr Thorne’s previous research funded by BCUK see here.

See here for a blog which explains Dr Thorne's new research project.

Page updated August 13, 2018

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