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Understanding the Development of Resistance to Cancer Medication

Cancer cells gradually acquire resistance to medication over time, with the immune system playing a crucial role in this process. Aida Solhøj Hansen, from the Department of Molecular Medicine, seeks to explore a specific mechanism contributing to this phenomenon through a Sapere Aude grant.

By Marianne Lie Becker, , 11/30/2023

During their treatment journey, a significant number of breast cancer patients experience a reduction in treatment effectiveness. This decline is particularly prevalent among patients with advanced breast cancer that is beyond the reach of surgery or radiation therapy.

While the combination of anti-estrogen therapy and targeted treatment has significantly improved survival rates, a persistent challenge emerges as cancer nodules develop resistance to this treatment within a few years.

Facts on breast cancer

  • Breast cancer continues to be the foremost cause of cancer-related deaths among women globally.
  • Each year, around 4,850 Danish women are diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • 1,050 lose their lives to the disease.

Unveiling Mechanisms of Resistance

Aida Solhøj Hansen's research project, funded by the Danish Independent Research Fund, focuses on exploring a particular mechanism by which cancer cells undermine the immune system while developing resistance.

- We're already aware that communication between cancer cells and immune cells involves the exchange of messages, often facilitated by extracellular vesicles – tiny packets carrying various components from the producing cell, explains Aida Solhøj Hansen.

These vesicles carry information capable of altering the function of recipient cells.

My aim is to investigate how breast cancer cells utilize these vesicles to communicate with immune cells, influencing their functions. Subsequently, I will examine the implications of this communication in the development of resistance.

Aida Solhøj Hansen, Department of Biomedicin, University of Aarhus.

Future Strategies for Overcoming Resistance

The project aims to reveal potential novel mechanisms contributing to the development of resistance in breast cancer patients. Hansen believes this discovery could pave the way for identifying new strategies to overcome resistance, ultimately enhancing the effectiveness of breast cancer treatment.

- In the end, this research could assist us in uncovering innovative approaches to address resistance, ultimately leading to a more efficient strategy against breast cancer, adds Hansen.

Project title

"Extracellular vesicles subvert the immune system and drive resistance to cancer."

Meet the researcher

Aida Solhøj Hansen will commence her tenure at SDU in spring 2024. Until then, she remains affiliated with Aarhus University.


Editing was completed: 30.11.2023