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New and Improved treatments

Understanding metastatic breast tumour evasion of immunotherapies

Garvan Institute of Medical Research Dr

Simon Junankar

Removing the primary tumour via surgery, combined with hormone therapies, chemotherapy and radiotherapy significantly improves patient survival, however once the cancer spreads (metastasises) there are few treatments available. The majority of cancer patients die of their metastatic disease rather than the primary tumour.

Immunotherapies are treatments designed to boost the body’s natural defences to fight cancer, and currently they are one of the few successful therapies for metastatic disease.

Recently, a new generation of immunotherapies (called checkpoint inhibitors) have shown dramatic success in treating metastatic melanoma, but as yet are not overly effective in breast cancer patients.

Developing improved immunotherapy regimes for metastatic breast cancer is imperative, however, the first step is to gain a better understanding of the interactions between metastatic cells and the immune system.

Dr Simon Junankar and his team are using a cutting-edge technique called cellular DNA barcoding to track how cancer cells respond to treatment and determine the factors that allow some cancer cells to avoid the immune system.

Understanding how metastatic breast cancer evades the immune system, and whether new types of immunotherapies can overcome this, will help explain why the current immunotherapies do not work and could open new effective therapeutic avenues.

Garvan Institute of Medical Research Dr

Simon Junankar