New therapy holds promise for aggressive breast cancers

by Fron Jackson-Webb
Triple negative breast cancer accounts for one-fifth of breast cancers and usually affects younger women. Credit: shutterstock.com

Australian researchers have developed a new therapy to treat a common and aggressive form of breast cancer and stop the disease spreading, with a 100% success rate reported in mice.

Using a combination of drugs, the therapy is designed to kill every cancer cell present in the tumour to ensure the cancer does not return.

The therapy targets triple negative , which accounts for one-fifth of breast cancers and usually affects younger women.

The research is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine.

The therapy is designed to target late-stage triple negative breast cancers, which have a median survival rate of 12 months. Unlike other , triple negative breast cancers don't have any of the three usual , which would normally be the target of treatment.

The researchers tested the therapy on 40 mice with , including 15 whose cancer had spread.

In three separate experiments, the researchers first used reduced doses of chemotherapy to kill sensitive cells. Then, to ensure the tumour didn't recur, they delivered low- to any that remained.

All the rodents treated with the were cured of primary tumours as well as others that may have developed in the brain, bone or lungs.

In contrast, mice in a comparison group who were treated with single components of the therapy were more likely to have their cancer recur.

Dr Fares Al-Ejeh, Senior Research Scientist at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and lead author of the study, said the next step was to translate the findings into a human setting, initially to see if the treatment was safe for humans.

"Then it will be a phase one clinical trial, which is mainly looking at safety but also hoping to see efficacy and anti-cancer effects," he said.

"And from then onwards it will be clinical development towards making this a practice for treating patients affected with this disease.

"We are hoping that within ten years we will be able to provide a good therapy for women affected with this aggressive cancer."

Medical Oncologist and CEO of Cancer Council Australia Ian Olver said the study was elegantly designed.

"It's the right strategy to look at more effective ways of targeting cancer, which means identifying the targets which may be only in a subgroup of cancers and then designing specific therapies to kill the cancer," said Professor Olver.

"The researchers cleverly identified a genetic receptor, which was then targeted with chemotherapy," he said.

"That means that the treatment will target the cancer and not the surrounding cells.

"The underlying method and approach seems as though it will bear fruit over time in a variety of different cancers.

"And If you do have multiple therapies you can use together, then you're more likely to have a successful outcome because tumours are very clever in finding ways of resisting single treatments."

Medical Oncologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney Janette Vardy said the study was promising but it was very early days for the research.

"It's a study in a small group of rodents. This then needs to be replicated again in animal studies. Then if these were positive you would look at taking it into human studies.

"It's a step in the right direction for investigating a new approach to treatment for a subtype of breast cancer with poorer outcomes – but its still a long way off going into human trials," she said.

More information: jnm.snmjournals.org/content/ea… .112.111534.abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Drug shows promise for triple-negative breast cancer

Jul 03, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- A promising new therapy for hard-to-treat triple-negative breast cancer has been reported in the journal Breast Cancer Research by a team at the Tulane University School of Medicine, led by ...

Silencing a deadly conversation in breast cancer

Jun 02, 2011

While it is already known that breast cancer cells create the conditions for their own survival by communicating their needs to the healthy cells that surround them, Australian researchers have identified a new way of turning ...

Breast cancer recurrence defined by hormone receptor status

Oct 01, 2012

Human epidermal growth factor (HER2) positive breast cancers are often treated with the same therapy regardless of hormone receptor status. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Breast Cancer Research shows ...

Recommended for you

Cancer exosome 'micro factories' aid in cancer progression

7 minutes ago

Exosomes, tiny, virus-sized particles released by cancer cells, can bioengineer micro-RNA (miRNA) molecules resulting in tumor growth. They do so with the help of proteins, such as one named Dicer. New research from The University ...

User comments