Media Releases

For all media enquiries, please contact

Researchers join forces to target breast cancer stem cells

Researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and Griffith University have developed a new way to study breast cancer stem cells.

Professor Jeff Gorman from QIMR’s Protein Discovery Centre said the work could eventually lead to new treatments for breast cancer.

“This is a really exciting outcome from a collaborative project which was the perfect marriage of biology and technology,” Professor Gorman said.

QIMR visiting scientist, Associate Professor Alejandro Lopez from Griffith University, said breast cancer stem cells could become the targets of cancer therapies, improving the current treatment outcomes.

“We described a method to study specific proteins within those stem cells which may be useful as a “marker” of sorts.

“It will help us establish why breast cancer stem cells are different, how to isolate them, and potentially how to stop them replicating.”

Associate Professor Lopez said targeting breast cancer stem cells could be key to stopping cancer spreading, or metastasising.

Breast cancer stem cells have been recently shown to both cause tumours and help them grow because the cells can replicate themselves.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Australian women, affecting one in eight. On average, seven women die from breast cancer every day in Australia.

Professor Gorman’s team said this latest research was an example of scientific collaboration at its best.

“QIMR researchers initiated this collaboration when we realised the potential to advance Alejandro Lopez’s exciting work into the biology of cancer,” Professor Gorman said.

QIMR’s Protein Discovery Centre (PDC) is one of Australia’s most advanced laboratories in Australia for the study of proteins and their effects on a range of infectious diseases and cancers. It’s funded by Queensland and Federal infrastructure co-investment funding.

This research is published in the current edition of PLoS ONE and available online at