“We are a multi-disciplinary team of scientists working across Leeds in the UK and North Carolina in the USA with a shared interest in understanding how nutrition can predict and alter outcomes for breast cancer patients.
The project will investigate if measuring the breast cancer patient’s adherence to World Cancer Research Fund’s Cancer Prevention Recommendations, and the nutritional and metabolic state of the tumour itself, could predict how tumours respond to chemotherapy.
This could lead to new clinical advice and new clinical tools to predict which treatments could work for individual patients, and how their diet could alter treatment response.” – Dr James Thorne
Developing a mechanistic understanding of how nutrient-metabolic gene pathways predict and modify responses to chemotherapy in breast cancer
Survival of breast cancer patients has improved a lot in the past few decades, but this is not the case for all subtypes of breast cancer. A subtype depends on how the cells look under a microscope or changes to the DNA in the cells.
Survival is lower if a patient’s tumour is able to resist the chemotherapy drugs that are being used to treat the cancer. This is called chemoresistance. When drugs stop working, patients need to have their treatment changed. This means that they lose valuable time in treating the cancer. The patient may also suffer from unnecessary side-effects. It is unclear why a particular chemotherapy drug works better for one patient but not for others.
Our previous research suggests that chemical changes to nutrients, known as metabolism, can make the tumour more resistant to drugs. Even before treatment begins, such nutrients cause changes in the tumour. The same changes also happen inside a cancer when it is trying to avoid the killing effects of the chemotherapy drugs. The tumour can become chemoresistant because of these alterations and continue to grow even when the patient is receiving treatment.
We would like to identify chemotherapy pathways altered by nutrients in breast cancer. We would also like to find out how well patients follow World Cancer Prevention Fund’s Cancer Prevention Recommendations including cutting out high-calorie foods, avoiding sugary drinks, losing weight, and drinking less alcohol.
How it will be done
We will recruit new breast cancer patients and try to predict how their tumours will respond to chemotherapy using nutrition information. To make these predictions we will use data collected from measuring these nutrient pathways inside their tumours. Importantly we can test in human and animal tissue that was collected during previous studies and stored for later use.
We will also collect information from the patients about how close their diet is to World Cancer Prevention Fund’s guidelines. Then we will measure the activity of the nutrient and chemotherapy genes in the patient’s tumour before their treatment begins. These two sources of data will be combined to make a computer model to predict which patients will respond to drug treatments.
We would like to develop a new prediction tool that can be used by doctors to select the best treatment for individual patients. This means that they would be able to identify patients who won’t respond to a particular drug. Doctors could then tailor treatment or even give dietary advice to help improve prognosis.
We expect this research to reduce exposure of patients to unnecessary side-effects, improve nutritional advice for patients, and crucially, improve long-term survival of patients.