Irish scientists may have found a way of treating one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.

Researchers hope that a drug currently used to treat ovarian cancer can also be used to prevent the growth of triple-negative breast cancer cells.

If found successful in clinical trials the drug, APT-246, has the potential to save lives.

More than 250 people are diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer each year, accounting for around one in six breast cancer cases globally.

This form of breast cancer is typically one of the most difficult to treat and is more prevalent in younger women.

The research was carried out by PhD student Naoise Synnott, under the supervision of Professor Joe Duffy and Professor John Crown, involving laboratory test in combination with current chemotherapy treatments.

It was funded by Breast-Predict and the Clinical Cancer Research Trust.

Ms Synott said: "At the moment the only form of drug treatment available to patients with triple negative breast cancer is chemotherapy.

"While this will work well for some patients, others may find that their cancer cells don't respond as well as might be hoped to chemo, leading patients suffering the side effects of this treatment without any of the desired outcomes".

Ms Synott said she hopes the research will provide better treatment and give "hope to future triple-negative breast cancer patients".

Director of Breast-Predict Professor William Gallagher said: "Over the last two decades drugs such Herceptin have been discovered to target or block proteins that are responsible for the growth of some breast cancers.

"Finding a similar drug therapy for triple-negative breast cancer has so far eluded scientists, making these findings all the more important".

Head of research at the Irish Cancer Society Dr Robert O Connor hailed the development as a significant milestone.

He said since 2010 the Irish Cancer Society has invested €20 million in vital research thanks to the Irish public who continue to fund its work.