New therapy holds promise for aggressive breast cancers

April 16, 2013 by Fron Jackson-Webb, The Conversation
Triple negative breast cancer accounts for one-fifth of breast cancers and usually affects younger women. Credit:

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.

Explore further: Drug shows promise for triple-negative breast cancer

More information: … .112.111534.abstract

Related Stories

Drug shows promise for triple-negative breast cancer

July 3, 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 Dr. Bridgette ...

Scientists find promising new target for aggressive breast cancer

March 20, 2013
Women with triple-negative breast cancer are more likely to have high levels of the MET biomarker in their tumours, making it a good new target for cancer drugs according to research published in the British Journal of Cancer, ...

Silencing a deadly conversation in breast cancer

June 2, 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 ...

To fight incurable metastatic breast cancer, resistance must be broken

December 10, 2012
One of the most frustrating truths about cancer is that even when a treatment works, it often doesn't work for long because cancer cells find ways to resist. However, researchers reporting studies done in mice in the December ...

Breast cancer recurrence defined by hormone receptor status

October 1, 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 ...

Researchers uncover multiple faces of deadly breast cancer

April 4, 2012
An international team of scientists, including four at Simon Fraser University, has made a discovery that will change the way the most deadly form of breast cancer is treated.

Recommended for you

More evidence of link between severe gum disease and cancer risk

January 16, 2018
Data collected during a long-term health study provides additional evidence for a link between increased risk of cancer in individuals with advanced gum disease, according to a new collaborative study led by epidemiologists ...

Researchers identify new treatment target for melanoma

January 16, 2018
Researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have identified a new therapeutic target for the treatment of melanoma. For decades, research has associated female sex and a history of previous ...

Researchers develop a remote-controlled cancer immunotherapy system

January 15, 2018
A team of researchers has developed an ultrasound-based system that can non-invasively and remotely control genetic processes in live immune T cells so that they recognize and kill cancer cells.

Pancreatic tumors may require a one-two-three punch

January 15, 2018
One of the many difficult things about pancreatic cancer is that tumors are resistant to most treatments because of their unique density and cell composition. However, in a new Wilmot Cancer Institute study, scientists discovered ...

New immunotherapy approach boosts body's ability to destroy cancer cells

January 12, 2018
Few cancer treatments are generating more excitement these days than immunotherapy—drugs based on the principle that the immune system can be harnessed to detect and kill cancer cells, much in the same way that it goes ...

Cancer's gene-determined 'immune landscape' dictates progression of prostate tumors

January 12, 2018
The field of immunotherapy - the harnessing of patients' own immune systems to fend off cancer - is revolutionizing cancer treatment today. However, clinical trials often show marked improvements in only small subsets of ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.