University of Galway leads international research project for treatment of triple-negative breast cancer

Professor Sharon Glynn, Fulbright Scholar and Professor in Pathology at University of Galway. Credit – Martina Regan.
Oct 09 2023 Posted: 11:07 IST

€2.7m Horizon Europe grant awarded for innovative research into new therapeutics 


Researchers at University of Galway are to lead an international research project exploring innovative therapeutics targeting one of the most aggressive and challenging cancers to affect women – Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC).

The project is supported by €2.7million Horizon Europe grant funding from the European Research Executive Agency.

Led by Professor Sharon Glynn, Fulbright Scholar and Professor in Pathology at University of Galway, the research is dedicated to developing a new set of therapeutics for the treatment of Triple Negative Breast Cancer – which affects about 10-15% of women diagnosed with breast cancer. 

The cancer is highly aggressive and challenging to treat as it lacks hormone receptors, making targeted therapies ineffective. As a consequence, treatment options for women suffering from the disease are limited to surgery and chemotherapy.

The research team is a collaboration between University of Galway; CÚRAM – the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices based at University of Galway; University of Seville; University of Luxemburg; University of Udine; University of Sienna; Trinity College Dublin; EPHE-PSL; Danish Cancer Institute; ISOF-CNR;  Saolta University Health Care Group; Galway Clinic; Houston Methodist Hospital; and other international partners. 

The research project - Advanced Engineering of Nitric Oxide Based Therapeutics for Triple Negative Breast Cancer Training Network (No-CANCER-NET) - will focus on developing a new set of therapeutics for the treatment of TNBC. 

Professor Glynn, who through her dedicated research over the past 15 years, has made significant advancements in understanding TNBC, said: “A big issue with this type of breast cancer is that it tends to be more aggressive from the very start and it carries a higher risk of spreading early to different parts of the body. Also, women can be diagnosed at a very young age with this cancer - often before standard breast cancer screening begins at the age of 50.” 

Professor Abhay Pandit, Director of CÚRAM and co-Principal Investigator in NO-CANCER-NET, said: “CÚRAM has internationally renowned expertise in research for the development and delivery of therapeutics, in addition to being model for expert training of postgraduate and postdoctoral scientists.”

Professor Glynn continued: “My team and I have been working to find new ways to treat TNBC, including the discovery of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) levels predicting poor outcomes in hormone receptor-negative breast cancer. 

“Women whose tumour had high levels of iNOS were five times more likely to die from breast cancer than those who had low levels providing us with a new therapeutic opportunity.

“This project will take two approaches to target nitric oxide, one which can trigger cell death and tumour regression, and the second, by targeting blood flow and tumour vasculature.”

Professor Glynn’s research, during her postdoctoral training at the US National Institutes of Health, provided the initial rationale for findings that then led to a clinical trial of NOS inhibitors for the treatment of TNBC, by Dr Jenny Chang in Houston Methodist Hospital. 

Dr Jenny Chang, a specialist in Breast Medical Oncology and Director of the Houston Methodist Hospital, said: “The cancer landscape is a fast-moving and ever-progressing area of research. Treatment modalities for various cancers have drastically improved in the past 10 years. However, our fight to treat some form of cancers, especially rare, aggressive and metastatic disease is still on going. We are delighted to collaborate with NO-CANCER-NET led by University of Galway as part of an international network, which will train the next generation of doctoral students. This network will provide a unique opportunity to understand the complexities of bench to bedside cancer research, as well as the importance of an interdisciplinary approach and an understanding of the fundamentals of related disciplines. This will be of great importance in preparing these students to work between academia, industry and in clinical healthcare providers. This skillset will accelerate the development of new therapeutics like NO-related therapeutics.”


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