Breast Cancer Xenografts

Background

We are studying human breast tumours that have been transplanted into mice. This is a common method of testing new drugs on breast cancer cells, but we do not fully understand how the transplantation process and drug treatments affect the grafted cells. The aim of this project is to study this process in great detail so that better ways to test new breast cancer drugs can be developed in future.

Aims and Relevance

There are several ways to graft human breast cancer cells into mice, and the first part of this project will study how the choice of method affects the type and frequency of gene mutations in the transplanted cells. The team will sequence (read) the entire DNA and RNA (a measure of the active genes in a cell) of breast cancer patients’ tumours before and after transplantation into mice to see how the mutations change over time. The next step will be to compare factors such as how the cells are treated before grafting, and to determine how the evolution of the grafted tumours changes when the mice are given anti-breast cancer drugs.

This study will be the first attempt to define at this level of detail how grafted breast cancer cells behave in mice, and how this behavior is affected by the choice of grafting methods and treatment with existing drugs. This information will be used to improve the methods that are currently used to test potential new cancer drugs, making this process more efficient and more relevant to the way the disease behaves in actual patients. The ultimate aim is to bring new breast cancer treatments into routine use more quickly than in the past. The study will also identify new mutations in breast cancers; these findings have the potential to answer more specific questions about how breast cancer arises, progresses, and becomes resistant to treatment.