Funding call for breast cancer research

31 October 2018
Changing the way we treat breast cancer and prevent metastasis

Dr Pegah Varamini has developed an approach that uses anticancer agents to attack cancer cells in triple-negative breast cancer. With your help, she will be able to complete her preclinical trials and move onto the clinical trials to give patients a safer alternative to general chemotherapy.

Turmeric? Surely something so simple, sitting in our kitchen cupboards can’t be the answer for one of the most challenging types of breast cancer?

But it can be. Right now, triple-negative breast cancer patients only have general chemotherapy as a treatment option that has a high risk of relapse and metastasis. These patients experience a lot of side effects because these drugs affect normal cells as well as cancer cells.

People are always surprised when I tell them that I have developed a new approach that can turn the active ingredient in turmeric into a safe medication for breast cancer.
Pegah Varamini

Pegah in her laboratory holding the active ingredient that uses advanced nanotechnology to target breast cancer cells.

Dr Pegah Varamini is a researcher and lecturer at the Sydney Pharmacy School. Cancer research has always been a priority for Pegah, particular since she lost her sister to cancer.

Pegah’s early research was developing novel painkillers for management of challenging types of pain, including cancer pain. Seeking more satisfaction from her research, she set out to develop a cure.

Breast cancer is the most common malignancy and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in Australian women and worldwide.

Dr Varamini explains that chemotherapy cannot be used effectively to treat these challenging types of breast cancers “because the toxic treatment can't differentiate between healthy and cancerous cells and causes harmful side-effects. The dose usually used to avoid life-threatening side effects are not strong enough to completely eradicate the tumours throughout the body.”

“The active ingredient in turmeric has shown a lot of potentials to be effective against an array of conditions such as cancer and inflammation. However, it cannot be used as a medicine in its raw form due to lacking drug-like properties, that means, having a turmeric latte at a coffee shop or a capsule of turmeric powder will not treat cancer and needs a lot more modifications to make a drug out of it!”

Preliminary studies on human cancer cells in the laboratory have proved that the new nanotechnology-based therapy is highly effective. Dr Varamini has successfully demonstrated that these advanced nano-vesicles containing the turmeric ingredient only target cancer cells and do not affect normal cells.

The successful development of this advanced technology will not only have potentials to treat breast cancer but also to prevent metastasis and relapse to other organs.

Dr Varamini says “the next step is to trial the efficacy and safety of this advanced technology in animals”, which she needs your help to achieve. “I would be able to work towards completing the preclinical trials and later move on to clinical trials to see how this exciting approach could work for different breast cancers.” Adding, “Most importantly, I could help give triple negative breast cancer patients a safe treatment option and prevent relapse and metastasis to other organs.”

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