One of the many problems with the way we do research is the reward system. Scientists are rewarded when they get grants and write papers and not necessarily when they work with others. Nonetheless, the only way for new ideas to get out there, get tested and get adopted is for them to be shared. At the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, we focus on collaborating with others both to enhance the work and also to help it get out faster. I am excited to report that two papers came out recently that demonstrate this concept.
The first paper, published in PLOS|one is from a collaborator of ours, Dr. Delphine Lee at St John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. She was trained as a dermatologist and her research has been in immunology. She and I talked about the idea that breast cancer could be caused by a bacteria or virus, an idea that had been explored and dismissed prior to the availability of modern techniques which map DNA and RNA. I suggested we look at nipple aspirate fluid to check for bacteria or viruses. Using volunteers from the Army of Women, we obtained samples of nipple aspirate fluid and the samples are being analyzed as we speak.
Meanwhile, Dr. Lee and her team explored this hypothesis in normal and cancerous breast tissue that they had on hand in a tissue bank at St. John’s. What they found surprised us all. They found that, indeed, there were both bacteria and viruses in the breast tissue, whether benign or malignant. The interesting part, however, was that it appears that the normal tissue has a bacteria that may be protective! This is preliminary data that needs further study, but nonetheless exciting. We will be pursuing it further and will keep you abreast of the findings. It shows that by sharing the concept of exploring the microbiome, we were able to inspire exciting research that could bring new clues about the cause of breast cancer.
The second paper is from Harvard. There, researchers have been looking at ways to block DCIS from becoming cancer by treating it with a special kind of RNA. They had come to me several years ago wondering how they could deliver this treatment to the pre-cancer cells that are contained within the duct. They had read our work on injecting chemotherapy into a duct in the nipple and were wondering if they could use that technique in their work in mice. After extensive conversation, they left with a plan. The paper showing that they could reduce the incidence of breast cancer in mice by injecting an siRNA intraductally was published last week in Science Translational Medicine.
We have been talking about the need for collaboration with other breast cancer groups but collaboration within research is also critical to progress. No single university, foundation or lab can find all the answers all by themselves. It is only by working together and sharing ideas that the real breakthroughs can be made.
To read the full papers discussed in this post, please click here.