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New Hope for the Treatment of Breast Cancer: Antibody-drug Compounds & Immunotherapy?

Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in females worldwide. It accounts for 16% of all female cancers and 22.9% of invasive cancers in women. 18.2% of all cancer deaths worldwide, including both males and females, are from breast cancer. In order to more effectively treat breast cancer, scientists have been searching for a molecule that selectively binds to the cancer cells and delivers a substance that can kill the tumor cells for years.

Recently, researchers from University and University Hospital Basel, has firstly and successfully combined such an antibody drug with a therapy that can stimulate the immune system to attack tumor cells. This is a new strategy and opens the new door to treat breast cancers. Relevant research results were published in the recent scientific journal Science Translational Medicine.

In almost 1/5 of breast cancer patients, an above-average number of HER2 receptors are located on the surface of the tumor cells. These receptors can transmit growth factor signals into the cell. Too many such receptors can lead the cancer cells to rapidly dividing, and tumor growth is faster than the average.

In recent years, a new drug called antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) has been put into use, and it works in two ways: these drugs form an antibody that selectively binds to tumor cell receptors, and interrupt the spread of signals; they are also used as a transport vehicle that transports the chemicals into the cancer cells with antibodies and trigger their death. The researchers showed that the use of specific cytotoxic substances may also have a beneficial effect on the body's immune system.

Researchers at the Department of Biomedicine of University of Basel have a step forward: in preclinical studies conducted in mouse breast cancer models, they combined the ADC "trastuzumab emtansine '" with another immune therapy (activates the immune system into more effectively attack the tumor) together.

"Our results clearly demonstrate that antibody-drug conjugates are suitable for use in a combination therapy, opening new perspectives for the treatment of breast cancer," says lead author Dr. Philipp Müller on the significance of the study.

Journal Reference:

Philipp Müller et al. Trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1) renders HER2 breast cancer highly susceptible to CTLA-4/PD-1 blockade. Science Translational Medicine, November 2015 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aac4925

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