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What Is Translational Breast Cancer Research

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

“Translational medicine” is “bench to bedside research.” It is a new area of medicine – where laboratory research is directly translated into clinical treatment, providing better treatment and diagnosis opportunities.

Translational medicine includes the use of “targeted therapies” - treatments that directly target tumor cell growth. By targeting the proteins or molecules in tumors, we are able to discover means to inhibit the crucial proteins controlling tumor growth without affecting normal cells. Targeted therapies are more effective and less harmful to normal cells, leading to a better quality of life for cancer patients.

Breast Cancer is the leading cancer among women in the United States and other developed countries. While it does occur in men, the incidence is very rare. Only 5 - 10% of breast cancer is inherited - 90% is sporadic and the cause of such sporadic cases is unknown. Research has shown that hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women does increase the risk of breast cancer but little is known about why some breast cancer is so aggressive.

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Tumor spread is the major cause of death in cancer patients. While early detection of breast cancer often gives patients a better chance for a cure, cancer that is detected later and some more aggressive forms of breast cancer are hard to cure. And in cases of early detection, sometimes the cancer reappears in other distant organs, five to ten years after the initial breast cancer is “cured.”

Research shows that proteins are involved in the spread of breast cancer. My research is focused on inhibiting the function of these proteins to stop the spread of cancer cells. The goal of my research is to find new and effective therapies to cure metastatic/aggressive breast cancer.

Today research developed in “translational medicine” is more targeted and directly applicable to clinical issues, but it still takes several years to develop treatments. We need to find the target for tumor growth, does lab work to determine means to inhibit tumor growth, and then move onto clinical trials.

Treatments today are much more advanced and more clinical trial drugs are available which gives us hope to find a cure for breast cancer.