Finding cancer’s Achilles’ heel – Professor Chris Lord’s research

‘ We all came away energised and inspired from meeting you all and hearing about people’s motivation to fund our research, thank you for coming to the centre - it proved a great motivation ‘

PROFESSOR CHRIS LORD (BCN Research Centre, London)


Why do we need research?

Thanks to research, effective treatments already exist for breast cancer. But there are still many patients for whom these drugs don’t work or stop working over time. For this reason we urgently need the next generation of targeted drugs to ensure treatments work for everyone and no one has to see their breast cancer come back.

Exploiting cancer’s weaknesses

Professor Chris Lord and his team at the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research are trying to achieve just that. They want to identify genetic weaknesses in breast cancer cells and design treatments targeting and exploiting these weaknesses. Such treatments, specifically attacking cancer cells, could reduce side effects and be more effective.

The researchers are using genetics to create better breast cancer treatments, and investigate if processes that repair DNA inside cancer cells could be the target for new breast cancer drugs. Professor Lord and his team hope to develop new, better, and kinder breast cancer therapies.

Proven track record

Professor Lord has already had a major success in this area, contributing to the discovery that a faulty BRCA gene in cancer cells acts as a weakness which can be exploited with a drug called a PARP inhibitor. These drugs are now being trialled in patients, have recently been approved for use in breast cancer in the USA and we eagerly await these treatments being made available to patients in Europe and the UK.

Bringing benefit to people with breast cancer

Professor Lord’s team is driving the development of new targeted treatments for breast cancer, based on new weaknesses that they are revealing inside cancer cells. We believe that his research has the potential to not only improve the quality of life for women with breast cancer, but also ensure that their cancer is treated successfully first time, and never comes back.


How Art For Cure has enabled pioneering research by supporting Breast Cancer Now

Art For Curehas been supporting Breast Cancer Now’s pioneering research projects. They have already funded over £300,000 worth of research into breast cancer at the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre, within the Institute of Cancer Research, in London.

Breast Cancer Now currently funds 10 different research teams at the Centre, comprised of over 100 scientists, who are working together to identify the risk factors associated with breast cancer, develop effective new therapies and prevent secondary breast cancer from taking lives.

The work happening at the Centre if of a great importance, as long-term funding gives researchers the time and space to tackle the biggest outstanding questions in breast cancer. Breast Cancer Now believes this approach to research will help to stop breast cancer taking lives and achieve their ambition. 

Breast Cancer Now’s ambition is that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live. Funding research into secondary breast cancer

Art For Curededicated funds from the 2014 and 2016 events to research into secondary breast cancer. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it sadly becomes incurable, so we need research into secondary breast cancer to stop this from happening and save lives. 

One of these projects, undertaken by Professor Clare Isacke’s team, identified that breast cancer cells recruit other non-cancerous cells, called fibroblasts, to help tumours grow and survive. They also discovered that breast cancer cells co-opt these fibroblasts by secreting a specific protein. By finding ways to block this protein, we could reduce the spread of breast cancer, giving women better ways to fight the disease.  

Finding Cancer’s Achilles’ Heel - Funding research into targeted treatments

For 2018, Art For Curehas decided to part-fund a project led by Professor Chris Lord, to find cancer’s Achilles’ heel.

We now have a growing understanding of the differences between breast cancer cells at a molecular level, such as differences in their genes and proteins. However, available treatments do not yet take full advantage of this knowledge. As a consequence, women continue to receive treatments that may not be best tailored to their cancer type. It also means that resistance to the treatment is more likely to develop. Professor Lord and his team are determined to change that.

Professor Lord’s team is driving the development of new targeted treatment strategies for breast cancer, based on newly identified genetic weaknesses. New targeted treatments could not only improve the quality of life for women with breast cancer, but also ensure that breast cancer is treated successfully first time, and never comes back.

Breast Cancer Now would like to thank Art For Cure and all their supporters for enabling pioneering research into breast cancer and helping us get a step closer to achieving our 2050 goal.