Nav: Home

Precise decoding of breast cancer cells creates new option for treatment

April 15, 2019

Every year more than 1.7 million women all over the world are diagnosed with breast cancer, with the disease ending fatally for around half a million patients. In the fight against breast cancer, research is being done into novel therapeutic approaches that are designed to target cancer cells more precisely and also activate the tumor-associated immune system. So far, however, little has been known about the different cancer and immune cells present within a tumor, and how they differ from patient to patient.

Mass cytometry unravels diversity of cells

Johanna Wagner of the University of Zurich joined forces with Marianna Rapsomaniki of IBM Research in Rüschlikon and the Patients' Tumor Bank of Hope to use mass cytometry to exam-ine several million cancer and immune cells from 140 patients, as the basis for creating an atlas of tumor and immune cells. "Using this technology we were able to examine the diversity of can-cer cells very precisely and describe how many different types of cancer cells are present in a tumor," explains Wagner, who's working on her PhD under the supervision of Bernd Bodenmiller, professor at the new Department of Quantitative Biomedicine, whose group specializes in the precision medicine analysis of tissues.

In parallel to this they also analyzed the immune system's tumor-associated macrophages and T-cells, which could attack the tumor - but also support it. If the activated immune system launches a successful attack, the breast cancer cells are destroyed. But if the nearby immune cells are inactivated, the breast cancer cells survive the attack.

Every tumor is unique in terms of its cellular composition

The researchers discovered that the previous assumption that a greater diversity of tumor cells was present in more aggressive tumors was false. More aggressive tumors are in most cases dominated by one single type of tumor cell, which often displays a high degree of abnormality. "Every tumor we looked at was unique in terms of its cellular composition, which varied from pa-tient to patient. This could be one of the reasons why we're having such difficulty treating breast cancer," says Wagner.

Breast cancer patients could benefit from immune therapy

At the same time, the scientists discovered similarities in the tumor-associated immune system between the aggressive tumors. Among one group of breast cancer patients they found an ac-cumulation of inactive immune cells that are successfully activated by immune therapy to fight lung and skin cancer. This included patients who previously weren't considered suitable candi-dates for immune therapy to treat breast cancer.

A comprehensive analysis of a tumor's entire cancer and immune cells could thus be a good basis for therapies in precision medicine. "Our findings suggest that immune therapy might pos-sibly work for breast cancer. We'll be doing further studies on this, and if they're successful will extend them into a clinical trial," explains Professor Bodenmiller.
-end-


University of Zurich

Related Breast Cancer Articles:

Does MRI plus mammography improve detection of new breast cancer after breast conservation therapy?
A new article published by JAMA Oncology compares outcomes for combined mammography and MRI or ultrasonography screenings for new breast cancers in women who have previously undergone breast conservation surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer initially diagnosed at 50 or younger.
Blood test offers improved breast cancer detection tool to reduce use of breast biopsy
A Clinical Breast Cancer study demonstrates Videssa Breast can inform better next steps after abnormal mammogram results and potentially reduce biopsies up to 67 percent.
Surgery to remove unaffected breast in early breast cancer increases
The proportion of women in the United States undergoing surgery for early-stage breast cancer who have preventive mastectomy to remove the unaffected breast increased significantly in recent years, particularly among younger women, and varied substantially across states.
Breast cancer patients with dense breast tissue more likely to develop contralateral disease
Breast cancer patients with dense breast tissue have almost a two-fold increased risk of developing disease in the contralateral breast, according to new research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer.
Some early breast cancer patients benefit more from breast conservation than from mastectomy
Breast conserving therapy (BCT) is better than mastectomy for patients with some types of early breast cancer, according to results from the largest study to date, presented at ECC2017.
One-third of breast cancer patients not getting appropriate breast imaging follow-up exam
An annual mammogram is recommended after treatment for breast cancer, but nearly one-third of women diagnosed with breast cancer aren't receiving this follow-up exam, according to new findings presented at the 2016 Annual Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons.
Low breast density worsens prognosis in breast cancer
Even though dense breast tissue is a risk factor for breast cancer, very low mammographic breast density is associated with a worse prognosis in breast cancer patients.
Is breast conserving therapy or mastectomy better for early breast cancer?
Young women with early breast cancer face a difficult choice about whether to opt for a mastectomy or breast conserving therapy (BCT).
Breast density and outcomes of supplemental breast cancer screening
In a study appearing in the April 26 issue of JAMA, Elizabeth A.
Full dose radiotherapy to whole breast may not be needed in early breast cancer
Five years after breast-conserving surgery, radiotherapy focused around the tumor bed is as good at preventing recurrence as irradiating the whole breast, with fewer side effects, researchers from the UK have found in the large IMPORT LOW trial.

Related Breast Cancer Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".