Breast cancer -- improved diagnostic accuracy and treatment targeting

November 25, 2015

Following a kick-off meeting, the TransLUMINAL-B project, which is being led by Charité -- Universitätsmedizin Berlin, is now officially underway. Over the next three years, researchers involved in the project will study the process of metastasis formation and the role of malignant cells, which accumulate in the blood and bone marrow of patients with certain types of breast cancer.

The project is being supported with €2 million in funding from German Cancer Aid, which was awarded as part of its 'Translational Oncology' priority program.

In Germany, 72,000 women develop breast cancer every year. The current project is setting out to study the most common type of the disease, luminal breast cancers, which account for 70 to 80% of all breast cancer cases. Luminal breast cancers are hormone-sensitive, and are usually treated with hormone therapy drugs; in many cases, this approach is effective. However, there are some exceptions, with one group in particular associated with a high level of risk. Many of the cancers in this group are resistant to therapy, which leads to recurrence and metastases.

While things may start off with only a tiny number of cancer cells being found in the blood and bone marrow, it is these few cells which play a crucial role in how the cancer spreads. As part of the TransLUMINAL-B project, and in order to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms involved, Prof. Dr. Carsten Denkert and his research team at Charité's Institute of Pathology will be investigating changes in individual cancer cells taken from the blood and bone marrow. The researchers are hoping to find out how and why they spread through the body, and why they have so far proven resistant to current treatments. "Once we have established the special characteristics of individual malignant cells from the blood, we will investigate the cells inside the cancer's tissue, and then compare the two," explains Prof. Carsten Denkert. "We hope that this will make it possible, even at first diagnosis, to predict whether a specific cancer is likely to metastasize, and whether it is likely to have a bad prognosis." This knowledge will allow physicians to treat cancers in a more targeted way, saving valuable time.

The German Cancer Aid Translational Oncology Priority Program

German Cancer Aid set up the Translational Oncology Priority Program in 2014 in order to speed up the translation of laboratory findings into clinical practice. The term 'translational oncology' refers to the interface between oncology research and its practical application, meaning that patients should be able to benefit quickly, with laboratory findings turned into improved diagnostic and treatment methods.

The TransLUMINAL-B project

The TransLUMINAL-B project, which is being led and coordinated by Prof. Dr. Carsten Denkert, is being conducted at the Institute of Pathology at Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin. The partners involved in the project are: the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg (Prof. Dr. Andreas Trumpp), the University of Heidelberg Institute of Pathology (Prof. Dr. Wilko Weichert), Universität Regensburg (Prof. Dr. Gero Brockhoff and Prof. Dr. Christoph Klein), and the German Breast Group (Prof. Dr. Sibylle Loibl).
Prof. Dr. Carsten Denkert
Institute of Pathology
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Tel: +49 (30) 450 536 047

Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

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