By Maria Cook
Breast cancer is a complex disease with four main subtypes: luminal A, luminal B, HER2-enriched and triple negative. Unlike the first three types, there is no targeted treatment specifically for triple negative breast cancer. But Carmel doctor and medical researcher Dr. Xiongbin Lu is part of a research team that recently made important findings related to the diagnosis that may eventually lead to a revolutionary form of targeted treatment.
Lu is a researcher in the Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine. In collaboration with researchers from the University of Maryland, Lu is using nanotechnology to target POLR2A, a gene related to the growth of triple negative breast cancer.
The treatment, while promising, has not yet been approved for human trials. The process of bringing a new cancer treatment to market is long and rigorous, Lu said.
“The thing we have to ask ourselves is, on human models, will it be as effective as on an animal model? A mouse is only about 25 grams, but a human body is around 100 to 200 pounds. That’s quite a difference,” Lu said. “We also have to eliminate all possibility of harm, all toxicity issues, before it can be approved.”
According to Lu, even those with no medical expertise can play an important role in cancer research by getting involved in conversations about research funding.
“Pay attention to cancer research. We’ve come so far, but it’s a hard task, which involves everybody in society, not just cancer scientists,” Lu said. “In the last few years, cancer research funding has been flat, so get involved. Write to your congress people and tell them to invest in cancer research.”