SQU team makes breakthrough in breast cancer research

MUSCAT, Nov 27 – A research team at Sultan Qaboos University led by Dr Sirin Adham from the Department of Biology, College of Science, has found circulating proteins in the blood and immune cells of Omani breast cancer patients which clearly distinguished between the hormone independent type of breast cancer known as triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) and all other types of hormone dependent breast cancers.
It is important to note that triple negative breast cancer is the worst subtype of breast cancer since it lacks the hormone receptors used as targets for treatment, and therefore it counts for the increase in mortality rates in women worldwide in general and in Oman in particular.
The percentage of women in Oman affected with this type of breast cancer is known to be higher than those reported worldwide.
The researchers at SQU tested the blood samples of Omani breast cancer patients and respective healthy controls. They found that certain molecules are capable to distinguish TNBC subtype from the other subtypes of breast cancer.
This result can be translated into the design of a targeted therapy based on the development of immunological antibodies which directly target these proteins.

Dr Sirin Adham

The molecules that were found circulating and expressed in breast tumour tissue are mainly two proteins known as Neuropilin-1 (NRP-1) and circulating placental growth factor (PlGF) which were increased in advanced nodal and metastatic breast cancer compared with locally advanced disease and particularly elevated in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) compared to other subtypes. Finally, the researchers also found that the age of the patient plays a role in the levels of these molecules which emphasises on the need to precisely prescribe the precise treatment.
Besides Dr Sirin, the work was done by the postdoctoral fellow Dr Adviti Naik, PhD candidate Noura al Zeheimi, Maysoon Basheer and Dr Charles Bakeit from the College of Science and in collaboration with the College of Medicine represented by Professor Mansour al Moundhri, Dr Adil al Ajmi, Dr Marwa al Riyami and Zamzam al Habsi.