Researcher works to blow rogue cancer’s cover

Dr Indunil Weerasena sits in front of two computer screens. Medical images are on one of the screens.
Oncologist Dr Indunil Weerasena
November 25, 2019

Fiona Stanley Hospital oncologist Dr Indunil Weerasena is on a mission to blow the cover of a highly aggressive and difficult-to-detect form of breast cancer and believes a mysterious protein could hold the key to the breakthrough.

Though it belongs to the most common – and generally easy to treat – group of breast cancers (oestrogen receptor – ER – positive cancers), this rogue cancer is difficult to control and returns rapidly.

While Dr Weerasena likens it to a 'wolf in sheep’s clothing' because there is no known way of distinguishing it from the rest of the (ER) positive flock, he hopes that with the aid of a Cancer Research Fellowship in the WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network program he can find a way.

Dr Weerasena research follows important new findings, made by other local researchers, about the mysterious protein called AAMDC.

This research showed that AAMDC not only hastened cancer cell proliferation but also made them resistant to the hormone and chemo therapies that were commonly used to fight ER-positive breast cancers.

High levels of AAMDC happen to be found in a subtype of cancer known as IC2. This subtype is known to have high rates of recurrence as well as resistance to contemporary chemotherapy regimes.

Dr Weerasena’s project will determine whether the rogue ER positive cancer is an IC2 subtype.

His findings could pave the way for the earlier identification of these cancers and more effective treatments, potentially with older chemotherapy regimes.

Parallels between breast and ovarian cancer mean Dr Weerasena’s research may also have further benefits for the treatment of some ovarian cancer patients.

Dr Weerasena is one of seven researchers recently awarded a Cancer Research Fellowship in the WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network program.

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