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Can naturally occurring substances in our food prevent the spread of breast cancer?

Dr. David Hoskin  Dr. Hoskin

Triple-negative breast cancer is a difficult-to-treat form of the disease that often has a poor prognosis, due to its aggressive nature and tendency to relapse and metastasize (spread). Although chemotherapy is the treatment of choice, these drugs may cause secondary cancers to develop, and they also have harmful side effects. As well, advanced triple-negative breast cancer that has spread to other sites in the body is often resistant to chemotherapy drugs and is not affected by hormonal or HER2-targeted treatments.

For these reasons, new anticancer drugs that only kill breast cancer cells and suppress the metastasis of triple-negative breast cancer cells are urgently needed.

Certain natural substances found in fruits, vegetables, and spices are able to kill both drug-sensitive and resistant cancer cells without harming their healthy counterparts, and have the potential to prevent metastasis. Researcher, Dr. David Hoskin, at Dalhousie University, has discovered that piperine and piperlongumine from pepper spice are able to selectively kill breast cancer cells and interfere with a process that is central to breast cancer metastasis.

About the Grant

Dr. Hoskin recently received funding from Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Atlantic Region to continue his work in this area. His research will determine how piperine and piperlongumine are able to suppress the metastatic process, providing rationale for the future use of piperine and piperlongumine to prevent the development of metastatic disease in women with triple-negative breast cancer.

Information about the researcher:

  • Dr. Hoskin learned that his grandmother had breast cancer when he was 10 years old. “I remember asking my mom, isn’t there anything that can be done?” he recalls. Back in the late 1960s, the answer was no. “I guess that always stuck with me.”

  • Dr. Hoskin received one of CBCF – Atlantic Region’s first-ever research grants in 1999.

  • Today, Dr. Hoskin is serving his second five-year term as Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Atlantic Region Endowed Chair in Breast Cancer Research. In this role, he supports the growth of the breast cancer research community in Atlantic Canada.

  • In addition to his busy research career, Dr. Hoskin is a passionate volunteer. He is Vice-Chair of CBCF – Atlantic Region Board of Directors; Chair of CBCF National Grants Committee; long-serving member of CBCFAtlantic Region Scientific Review Committee and often gives his time to speak at public events.