New from old: Reusing existing drugs to treat breast cancer

We want to find drugs used every day that might help in the battle against breast cancer

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    pledged of £6,000

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Completion Date: Thu 01 Sep 2016

The story so far...

While treatment for breast cancer has improved in the last decade, it still kills many women every year and is by far the most common cancer in Northern Ireland.

To address the need for new treatments I decided to take a different approach. I looked at how the levels of thousands of genes change between malignant and normal breast tissue from thousands of patients. In this analysis I found a set of genes that are consistently different between cancer cells and normal cells - this is our "gene signature" of breast cancer. This gene signature has been computationally mapped to a huge database of other gene signatures that represent treatment of cancer cells with many drugs. The drugs in the database are currently widely-used for the treatment of many types of disease, beyond cancer. These diseases include everything from diabetes and headaches to dementia and heart disease. This mapping gives me a score for each drug, it tells me one of three things - they won't have any effect, they may speed-up breast cancer OR, most importantly, they may slow-down breast cancer. Those drugs that may slow-down breast cancer could represent vital new treatments for this awful disease.

Who am I?

My name is Fabio Liberante and I am a research fellow who aspires to improve our understanding of cancer biology and in doing so identify novel therapies for cancer. My background is in molecular biology, but I have strong interest in harnessing the power of the modern computer to break open some of the mysteries of the human cell, especially when that cell goes rogue.

Why am i asking for help?

My analysis has identified many potentially new treatments for breast cancer, but I need to test these in the lab before they ever reach the clinic. The good news is that, because these drugs are already used by people all over the world, we already know they are safe for humans to take. This is the biggest benefit of looking for new therapies in old drugs — known as "drug repurposing"This means that the time between the research in the lab and a patient getting access to the treatment is usually closer to years  rather than the decades it often takes for completely new drugs!

The money you give will help to purchase the many potential treatments that I have identified. These will then be tested in the laboratory against cells that represent many different types of breast cancer. This will tell us how good they are at killing cancer cells. The most promising drugs will then be validated to see if they are suitable for pre-clinical and clinical trials.

What I need help with: 

  • Purchasing the therapies identified:    £2500
  • Tissue culture reagents — to grow the cancer cells:    £1250
  • Laboratory reagents — to test the drugs:    £2250


I don't have much to offer in terms of material reward, but I promise to keep you updated on my progress and you will be involved in some exciting research that I hope will improve outcomes for patients with breast cancer

Help us beat breast cancer!

Please share this project with anyone you think would support our research and help us beat breast cancer!