Dr Shawn Li

Research into hard-to-treat breast cancer could lead to better treatment

Dr Shawn Li
I’m extremely grateful to the Canadian Cancer Society for funding my research with an Innovation Grant.

Dr Shawn Li, of Western University in London, Ontario, is studying ways to overcome chemotherapy resistance in women with triple-negative breast cancer. His work could lead to better outcomes for women with this hard-to-treat form of breast cancer. Women under the age of 40 and women of African or Asian ancestry are at higher risk for triple-negative breast cancer.

“While, in general, survival rates for breast cancer are high, it’s important to focus on a breast cancer that is more difficult to treat and affects many young women,” says Dr Li. “I’m extremely grateful to the Canadian Cancer Society for funding my research with an Innovation Grant.” 

Dr Li has discovered that when a cell protein called Numb interacts with another protein called Set8, Numb loses its ability to hold on to p53, a protein that suppresses the growth of tumours. This complex cellular pathway could explain why chemotherapy is ineffective against some cancers and could provide a strategy to reverse chemo-resistance. He and his team of researchers will study the Set8 protein and how it interferes with cancer cell death. More importantly, they will screen thousands of drugs to look for those that prevent Set8 from interfering with cancer cell death, which could lead to new therapies for triple-negative breast cancer.

Dr Li has received a total of $2.4 million in research funding from the Society since 2001, and the Society is pleased to continue supporting his research and innovative ideas.

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