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Novel therapy

November 9th, 2016

Encouraging novel thinking and explorative research can result in unexpected and surprising new directions for investigation. NBCF believes it is important to provide funds that explore bold new ideas which could lead to exciting breakthroughs in the causes and treatment of breast cancer. Some projects may appear to be high risk (they may not discover something new) but all have a high potential to make a significant difference.

Dr Clare Slaney
Senior Research Fellow, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC

Dr Clare Slaney (R) and research assistant Bianca von Scheidt are working to boost the immune system so it can attack tumours.

Breast cancer is a disease adept at evading the body’s immune system, avoiding routine destruction by sometimes hijacking healthy cells, or switching off immune regulators which allow the tumour to hide in plain sight.

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy is a novel form of immunotherapy where genetically modified white blood cells are transferred to the patient to boost the immune system.

Although results on cancers of the blood have been remarkable, success against solid cancers has been modest. However Dr Clare Slaney and her team recently made an exciting breakthrough, eradicating large tumours in mice.

The new approach involves a transfusion of genetically modified white blood cells to attack breast cancer cells plus an injection of a virus-based vaccine that also attacks cancer cells.

Preliminary data also demonstrates that the immune system then develops a memory response and is able to fight recurring tumours. This is important as the threat of breast cancer recurrence in other organs is a constant worry for patients.

NBCF Future View: This study is gathering data for a clinical trial. If successful, it would be one of the most effective new breast cancer therapies and could significantly reduce breast cancer mortality in the next 5-10 years.