A POTENTIAL new drug to tackle a highly aggressive type of breast cancer has been discovered by a Bradford researcher.

Professor Mohamed El-Tanani from the University of Bradford’s Institute for Cancer Therapeutics has also developed a way of delivering the drug directly to the cancer cells.

Laboratory tests have shown when the drug is added to hard-to-treat breast cancer cells, the cells actively take it in and their growth rate is reduced.

The drug is a peptide, a fragment of a protein, which Prof El-Tanani found out is able to block out another protein called RAN which helps cancer cells to divide and grow.

High levels of RAN have been linked to aggressive tumour growth, cancer spread and are resistance to chemotherapy often ending in poor prognosis in a number of cancers, including triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).

Between 10 to 20 per cent of breast cancers are found to be triple negative which means they do not respond to hormones oestrogen and progesterone or the protein HER2, limiting the range of treatment options and increasing the risk of it coming back if cured.

Prof El-Tanani has been working with colleagues from Ulster University, Sunderland and Queen’s University Belfast to come up with a special way of getting the new protein drug to the cancer cells and attacking them.

The researchers have found that by putting the drug in a tiny particle first, which acts like a capsule, once it is injected it preserves it long enough to be carried to the cells before being released. Tests have shown the protein drug breaks down too early to work if injected by itself.

“By developing a nanoparticle that can help this peptide enter triple negative breast cancer cells and block RAN we’ve brought this potential new treatment a step closer to the clinic,” said Professor El-Tanani.

He added: “We knew we’d need a novel delivery mechanism for this drug because peptides on their own are unstable and they can degrade too quickly to be effective. Using a nanoparticle as a delivery mechanism was the perfect solution.”

Professor El-Tanani is also working on a number of other potential RAN inhibitors, including a drug that has been already pre-clinically validated in breast and lung cancer and is ready for clinical trials. The University of Bradford is looking for funding and investor support to support more development of those drugs.