Scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) have developed a mathematical method to determine whether chemotherapy will work on an aggressive form of breast cancer - potentially saving many women from its debilitating side effects.

In a major breast cancer research breakthrough, the Irish-led study may eventually lead to more targeted treatments for all forms of breast cancer.

According to RTE news, the RCSI test also “raised the possibility that a new drug for leukemia could be used to make chemotherapy more effective at killing triple negative breast cancer cells.”

Triple negative breast cancer occurs in over 250 people a year in Ireland, particularly young women. Other forms of breast cancer, which are fueled by the hormones estrogen or progesterone, or HER2 receptors, are considered easier to treat.

The test was created in an effort to determine whether traditional chemotherapy will work on triple negative breast cancer cells. An informative testing system will allow patients to avoid going down the traditional chemotherapy route unnecessarily.

The test would also lead to more targeted and effective treatments in the long run.

The RCSI researchers, funded by the Irish Cancer Society, have used a complex mathematical formulas based on a very specific set of proteins that regulate cell death.

According to RTE’s Science & Technology Correspondent, Will Goodbody, the test model analyses the protein concentration as well as other information about how it interacts with other proteins to determine if chemotherapy will be useful.

"It works quite well on in-vitro models on cancer cell lines. We tested it on different triple negative breast cancer cells," said Dr Federico Lucantoni, Post-doctoral researcher and lead author of the study said.

This has been possible only thanks to an amazing team and to all the donations that people make on days like Daffodil! So, keep it going! @ProfJochen @BREAST_PREDICT @IrishCancerSoc https://t.co/SFz0jXGn0S

— Federico Lucantoni (@fede_luca_toni) March 19, 2018

"We hope that in the future clinicians by using these models will be able to tailor the therapy."

RCSI professor of physiology Jochen Prehn added, “We hope that, if successful in further testing, our research may one day allow doctors to give women more tailored and effective treatments, and spare the harsh side-effects of chemotherapy in women who are unlikely to respond well to it."

The researchers are now continuing the research by testing the formula on more advanced forms of breast cancer in the lab.

Once the RCSI technique has been perfected, it can move forward to clinical trials on patients.

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Royal College of Surgeons IrelandFlickr