Spotlight on Research this Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Enabling and funding research is just one of the ways we’re here, at every step, to support people with and beyond cancer. So, as part of breast cancer awareness month, we caught up with Dr Lewis Quayle to find out the difference your donations make to his cutting-edge research.
Each year, a considerable number of patients at Weston Park Cancer Centre are diagnosed with breast cancer that has spread to the skeleton (bone metastasis.) Weston Park Cancer Charity has funded Dr Lewis Quayle’s research since completing his PhD in 2017. He’s currently undertaking cutting-edge research that aims to explore why some cancer cells are able to enter into a non-dividing state when they spread to other parts of the body, enabling them to resist chemotherapy and remain for long periods of time, ultimately causing tumours to emerge many years after treatment of the primary tumour.
Lewis studied dormant breast cancer cells and healthy cells to compare the ways they are different. This has generated a large amount of data, and Lewis has had to develop new techniques to be able to analyse it all. Being able to do this will allow a much better understanding of how breast cancer cells change their behaviour when they enter the bones and become dormant, and therefore point researchers to possible new drug targets to treat or prevent these late-developing secondary tumours. As currently there is no cure for breast cancer that has spread to the bone, any new developments in this area have the potential to have a big impact on breast cancer patients.
Last year Lewis went on a two-month training placement at the Garvan Institute (Sydney, Australia) in order to develop his research further (https://www.westonpark.org.uk/the-new-frontier-in-breast-cancer-research/). His trip was partly funded by Weston Park Cancer Charity. We recently caught up with Lewis to get an update on his activities since the last time we reported on his research (https://www.westonpark.org.uk/research-update-developing-improved-therapies/).
What’s new since the last time we heard from you?
Since the last time I reported on my activities I have actually achieved quite a lot, despite the on-going Covid-19 pandemic disrupting laboratory work. First of all, I have been successful in generating two further large data sets from my experimental models, which means I am close to completing my work that aims to identify potential new therapeutic targets aimed at removing the cancer cells responsible for tumour recurrence.
I reported my preliminary findings from the data sets I already have at two conferences that I attended before the pandemic; the British Association for Cancer Research Special Conference New Developments in Breast Cancer Research that took place in Gateshead last October, and again at the Edinburgh Breast Cancer Special Symposium in February this year.
The findings that I reported were received with great excitement and support by internationally renowned experts in my field and I actually won one of the prizes for best research poster at the Gateshead meeting. I am hoping to complete my final experiments on this in the next two months and then finalise my analyses quickly with the aim of publishing my findings before Easter 2021.
I have also been busy working on a web resource alongside Weston Park Cancer Charity supporter and volunteer Elliot Hall that is aimed at allowing research scientists access to rapidly access large amounts of publically available genetic and clinical data that we have pre-curated which we hope will support the local and national cancer research communities in undertaking validation of their important findings with relative ease.
Ultimately this will help researchers make discoveries faster and allow them to have greater certainty about the findings they report. Elliot and I met a week after my return from Sydney during one of the laboratory tours that we regularly hold throughout the year for Weston Park Cancer Charity staff and supporters and started chatting about the possibility of him extending his support of Weston Park Cancer Charity to doing some volunteer work in our group; as a former NHS database engineer with over 25 years of experience I thought he would be the perfect person to help to develop this resource.
After a few initial meetings we decided to set about building this resource for other members of the cancer research community to do similar things for their work. We have called our website ExpressExpression (http://www.expressexpression.org) and we currently have a live working prototype that we are busy populating with data. We hope to have finished adding the data relating to breast, prostate, colorectal and lung cancers in the next two months and then publish a paper reporting this resource so that we can spread the word to cancer researchers around the country and the rest of the world.
Do you have a message for to supporters of Weston Park Cancer Charity during breast cancer awareness month?
I appreciate that these are challenging times for everyone and that it is especially hard for charity supporters to raise funds and for the charity to continue doing the amazing job that it does. What I would say to everyone though is to keep going; cancer will still be an enormous problem when the current situation subsides, so if you can keep doing whatever you can to continue to provide support to the charity, this will enable people like me, who are determined to make sure that cancer will become less of a problem and not a greater one, to keep doing what we do.
FROM JUST £5 A MONTH, YOU CAN HELP CHANGE EVERYTHING FOR SOMEONE LIVING WITH CANCER. Go to westonpark.org.uk/get-involved/make-a-donation to give your support today