New anti-cancer compound shows promise for breast cancer

July 8, 2013, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
The research team was led by (from left to right) Dr Delphine Merino, Dr François Vaillant, Professor Geoff Lindeman and Professor Jane Visvader. Credit: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

Melbourne researchers have discovered that anti-cancer compounds currently in clinical trials for some types of leukaemia could offer hope for treating the most common type of breast cancer.

The researchers, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, found that the compounds, called BH3-mimetics, were effective in treating aggressive -positive (ER-positive) breast cancers when combined with the tamoxifen in preclinical models. Approximately 70 per cent of breast cancers are ER-positive.

The research team, led by Professor Geoff Lindeman, Professor Jane Visvader, Dr François Vaillant and Dr Delphine Merino from the institute's Breast Cancer Laboratory, said they hoped their results would lead to of BH3-mimetics for treating ER-positive breast cancers in the next few years.

Professor Lindeman, who is also a medical oncologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, said that BH3-mimetics worked by neutralising a protein called BCL-2 in , making them more susceptible to dying. Up to 85 per cent of ER-positive breast cancers have high levels of BCL-2, which is a so-called 'pro-survival' protein that helps cancer cells to become immortal, and can help them to survive chemotherapy and other treatments.

"Drs Vaillant and Merino looked at the effect of adding BH3-mimetics to the standard , tamoxifen, used for a subtype of ER-positive cancers called luminal B cancers, which had high levels of BCL-2," Professor Lindeman said. "They found that a BH3-mimetic called ABT-199/GDC-0199 improved the effectiveness of hormone therapy by stopping or delaying the growth of these aggressive tumours. In one of the tumour models, the combined treatment caused complete disappearance of the tumour, while standard treatment had only a partial and unsustained benefit."

Credit: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

Professor Visvader said there was a need to improve treatments for luminal B breast cancers, which are a more aggressive type of ER-positive , associated with a poorer prognosis. In the study, the researchers used preclinical models of breast tumour samples donated by Melbourne women undergoing cancer surgery to understand how real human cancers would respond to the treatment.

"We are excited by these results and what they could mean for women with breast cancer," Professor Visvader said. "ER-positive breast cancers are the most common type of breast cancer, so even a small improvement could have a substantial impact if more effective upfront treatment could prevent relapse," she said. "It is very early days, however, and the findings will need to be rigorously tested in clinical studies."

A landmark discovery in the late 1980s by Walter and Eliza Hall Institute scientists that BCL-2 promoted cell survival fuelled more than two decades of global research that has culminated in the design of BH3-mimetics. The investigational compound, ABT-199/GDC-0199, was discovered by scientists at Abbott (now AbbVie) and is currently being developed by Genentech, a member of the Roche group, and AbbVie.

Professor Lindeman said he hoped the recently established Centre for Translational Breast Cancer Research (TransBCR) could contribute to future clinical trials of the novel combination treatment. "Australian women who donated their tumour samples for research helped make this discovery possible," he said. "It would be great to see Australians among the first to benefit from clinical trials, should they proceed."

The research is published today in the journal Cancer Cell.

Explore further: New agents show promise for treating aggressive breast cancers

Related Stories

New agents show promise for treating aggressive breast cancers

July 18, 2011
Some of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer are more vulnerable to chemotherapy when it is combined with a new class of anti-cancer agent, researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have shown.

Studies show increasing evidence that androgen drives breast cancer

April 10, 2013
Estrogen and progesterone receptors, and the gene HER2 – these are the big three markers and/or targets in breast cancer. Evidence presented at the AACR Annual Meeting 2013 adds a fourth: androgen receptors.

Study finds hormones can change the breast's genetic material

January 31, 2013
Melbourne scientists have discovered how female steroid hormones can make dramatic changes to the genetic material in breast cells, changes that could potentially lead to breast cancer.

Researchers discover molecule that drives aggressive breast cancer

July 1, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Recent studies by researchers at Thomas Jefferson University's Kimmel Cancer Center have shown a gene known to coordinate initial development of the eye (EYA1) is a powerful breast tumor promoter in mice. ...

Study confirms long term benefits of tamoxifen

June 3, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Taking tamoxifen for 10 rather than five years halves the risk of women dying from the most common kind of breast cancer, according to new research being presented at this year's ASCO conference.

Recommended for you

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

Researchers develop swallowable test to detect pre-cancerous Barrett's esophagus

January 17, 2018
Investigators at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center have developed a simple, swallowable test for early detection of Barrett's esophagus that offers promise ...

Scientists zoom in to watch DNA code being read

January 17, 2018
Scientists have unveiled incredible images of how the DNA code is read and interpreted—revealing new detail about one of the fundamental processes of life.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Asmodat
1 / 5 (1) Jul 08, 2013
Cure for cancer is known for centuries, there is nothing new to invent.
Just stop f* eating sugar and other shit.

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.