Program of Study:
Ferroptosis-promoting drugs as novel tools for breast cancer treatment
Approximately 15 Canadian women die from breast cancer every day. Hence, new breast
cancers treatments are needed. Some drugs cause an iron-mediated form of cell death known as
ferroptosis. We found that one of these drugs called Erastin strongly reduces the ability of breast cancer
cells to form tumours in mice but surprisingly, kills only a small portion of these cells when they
grow on a dish. Cancer is driven not by all cells in the tumour but only by a small portion of cells
called tumour-initiating cells. When grown on a dish, tumour-initiating cells can be distinguished
from other cells because they produce a protein called ALDH. We found that Erastin does not kill
all tumour cells on a dish but only those that carry ALDH. Hence, drugs that cause ferroptosis can
likely kill tumour-initiating cells. This ability could make them highly effective as new breast cancer
Erastin is well known to cause ferroptosis but is not used in the clinic. Several drugs that
cause ferroptosis are used in the clinic for treatment of diseases other than cancer. We will test
whether these agents kill tumour-initiating breast cancer cells and could thus serve as future new
breast cancer drugs.
We will also test whether Erastin kills tumour-initiating breast cancer cells in mice and
whether this drug blocks breast cancer from spreading to other areas in the body.
In summary, we expect to show that ferroptosis-promoting agents kill tumour-initiating
breast cancer cells and thus could serve as future new breast cancer drugs.
Scholarships and/or Awards:
- BHCRI DMRF CRTP Award 2022