Enhancing the immune response to breast cancer

Start Year: 2018
Finish Year: 2021
Chief Investigator: Dr Jane Oliaro
Institution: The University of Melbourne

While the overall prognosis for breast cancer has improved dramatically in recent years, there is still a need for better, more targeted therapies that have less side effects (such as toxicity). The immune system is generally ineffective against breast cancer, and fails to generate the immune cells required to kill the cancer cells and destroy the disease. Therefore, approaches that promote a patient’s immune cells to attack cancer cells are of immense interest as a path to treating cancer.

Dr Jane Oliaro

A new class of drugs, called Smac-mimetics, are emerging as potent anti-cancer agents against a range of cancer types, including breast cancer. These drugs can directly kill the cancer cells, but are also thought to promote an immune response. Combining Smac-mimetics with known immunotherapies, such as anti-PD1 (Keytruda) or adoptive T cell therapy, is likely to provide greater therapeutic benefit.

In this project, Dr Jane Oliaro will determine how the immune system is activated by Smac-mimetic drugs, and whether their anti-cancer activity can be improved by combining these drugs with other agents.

The results of this study will pave the way for the development of new combination treatments that drive optimal anti-tumour immunity against breast cancer.