Combination of Immunotherapy with Antibody Drug Offers Hope in Breast Cancer Treatment

Research may lead to new treatment approach for cancer.

Researchers are zeroing in on a treatment approach for breast cancer in which molecules selectively bind to cancerous cells to deliver a tumor-killing agent.

In a study published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers for the first time were able to combine an antibody-drug conjugate with an immunotherapy.

The study noted that in approximately every fifth breast cancer patient, an above average number of HER2 receptors are found on tumor cells. This overabundance of receptors causes rapid cell division to allow the tumor to grow faster than average.

Antibody-drug conjugates act by selectively binding to tumor cell receptors to disrupt the signal to multiply. These conjugates can also transport a chemical substance that delivers antibodies to the interior of cancer cells and trigger death.

Certain cytotoxic substances have also been found to have a beneficial effect on the immune system.

For the current pre-clinical study, researchers from the Department of Biomedicine at the University Hospital Basel combined the antibody-drug conjugate trastuzumab emtansine with an immunotherapy that prompts the immune system to attack tumors more efficiently in a mouse model.

"Our results clearly demonstrate that antibody-drug conjugates are suitable for use in a combination therapy, opening new perspectives for the treatment of breast cancer," said lead author Dr. Philipp Müller.