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New and Improved treatments

Harnessing the innate immune system to develop new therapies for breast cancer

Garvan Institute of Medical Research Dr

Tatyana Chtanova

Project Description: Current immunotherapies that target the adaptive immune system are showing enormous promise in treatment of solid cancers such as metastatic melanoma and lung cancer. Unfortunately, these immune targeting treatments are only effective in a small subset of breast cancer patients. Improving the responses of breast cancer patients to immunotherapy is an area of great focus particularly for triple negative breast cancers (TNBC), which due to the lack of hormone receptors, have limited treatment options and poor outcomes. The focus of this project is to develop an alternative immunotherapeutic approach by targeting the innate immune system, a part of the immune system that rapidly responds to bacterial infection. Dr Chtanova has discovered that specialised white blood cells present in breast tumours can be re-programmed as anti-tumour fighting cells. The development of new immunotherapies with improved responses in breast cancer will be a significant advance and result in improved outcomes for breast cancer patients. 

Why This Work is Needed: TNBC is one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer with limited treatment options. It also has a high recurrence rate and some of the poorest outcomes, therefore new therapeutic approaches are desperately needed. Immunotherapy has revolutionised the treatment of some solid cancers such as metastatic melanoma and lung cancer but only a small proportion of breast cancer patients respond to this treatment. Thus, there is a great need to develop new immunotherapies that are effective for patients with hard-to-treat breast cancers. 

Expected Outcomes: This project aims to develop an understanding of how the innate immune system could be harnessed via a new immunotherapeutic option for patients with hard-to-treat tumours. 

Project Details

Immunotherapy is showing enormous promise in the treatment of solid cancers such as metastatic melanoma and lung cancer. Unfortunately, current immune therapies are only effective in a small subset of breast cancer patients. The new project led by Dr Tatyana Chtanova from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, will focus on understanding how specialised white blood cells, called neutrophils, can be reprogrammed to find and destroy breast cancer cells. Dr Chtanova will then use this new understanding of neutrophils to develop new immunotherapeutic options, via antimicrobial drugs that mimic bacteria and help neutrophils to kill breast cancer cells. Her team have already shown that this approach can slow tumour growth and improve survival rates in preclinical models. The overall goal of this project is to provide the pre-clinical data necessary to develop these new treatments for breast cancer patients, such as those with triple negative breast cancer, most of which do not benefit from currently available immunotherapies. 

Garvan Institute of Medical Research Dr

Tatyana Chtanova