Breast Cancer No Longer Scary as we Reveal Its Smarter Disguises
by Federica Parisi PhD, October 6, 2016 at 07:00 AM
October is breast cancer awareness month and CrownBio has reviewed the latest breast cancer research to bring you the highlights of recent preclinical advances
Breast cancer is the leading type of cancer diagnosed in women worldwide, accounting for 25% of all cancer cases and resulting in over half a million deaths per year. Although the rate of success in curing breast cancer has steadily improved over the past 15 years, some patients still relapse with metastatic disease, which is much more difficult to eradicate because it presents with a more heterogeneous set of cancer cell types.
Further research is needed to unravel the complexity behind the tumor heterogeneity in metastatic breast cancer, and to translate this into new therapeutic options.
A study led by Harvard Medical School investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital has recently found that the molecular characteristics of breast cancer cells can spontaneously change in patients with metastatic disease, leading to tumors with a mixed population of cells.
This preclinical finding is bound to influence decisions made at the clinical stage because, as tumors evolve, so should the therapeutic approach, requiring combinations of several types of targeted drugs.
To test various combinations of therapies and ensure a greater chance of success with patients in the clinic, better preclinical models are required that mimic patients tumors and could be used to evaluate treatment efficacy.
Another aspect of tumor heterogeneity is represented by the presence at the breast tumor site of healthy cells from the immune system. These cells are thought to be there to try and fight cancer growth. However, tumor cells have found ways to stop immune cells from performing their normal functions, enabling cancer growth and progression.
In a paper published in the journal Nature Immunology a group of researchers from King’s College London discovered that immune cells recruited to the site of a breast tumor not only are no longer able to kill the tumor, but are also highjacked by cancer cells into producing factors that promote tumor growth and movement.
This is due to the interaction between two factors: a class of proteins called mucins (MUC1) on the surface of cancer cells and a protein called lectin (Singlec-9) on the immune cells. MUC1 is also able to induce the expression of PD-L1 in immune cells, a receptor that has been successfully targeted by immunotherapy in several types of cancer.
These findings could lead to the development of a new targeted treatment for breast cancer patients, which works by blocking the MUC1/Singlec-9 interaction. The new experimental agents could then be combined with anti-PD-L1 drugs that have already shown efficacy in lung and skin cancer patients.
The next step for developing this kind of treatment would be testing in vivo, which requires a collection of well-characterized and validated breast cancer models for various stages of drug efficacy research.
If the preclinical in vivo work shows successful results, it could then progress to clinical trials in humans.
Crown Bioscience believes it is vital that these basic research findings are followed up by preclinical work to develop and test the next generation of anticancer drugs before they reach patients in the clinic.
To help breast cancer drug development CrownBio has a wealth of well-characterized and validated models readily available for every stage of drug discovery, from early efficacy and pharmacodynamics research in cell linesto later stage in vivo cell line derived and patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models.
To help accelerate the development of the latest breast cancer immunotherapy agents, CrownBio provides a collection of models for in vitro and in vivo efficacy testing as well as large scale screening services on a panel of well-characterized syngeneic models.
Last but not least, our research and development teams have made great progress in refining the use of humanized PDX and cell line derived xenograft models for application to late stage immunotherapy drug discovery programs.
Contact us today to discover more on all our breast cancer research platforms.