herceptin therapy

A cancer research centre has discovered that many patients, whose tumours were positive for the estrogen receptor in addition to the Her2 protein, were more likely to develop resistance to the commonly used Herceptin therapy.

cancer resistance
Breast cancer patients who test positive for high levels of the Her2 protein are usually treated with Herceptin, which has vastly improved the outlook for this group of patients.

These findings come just six months after the founding of BREAST-PREDICT, the Irish Cancer Society’s first Collaborative Cancer Research Centre (CCRC), which are aimed at improving integration of cancer research and cancer care in Ireland and internationally.

Estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer, which accounts for 70% of all breast cancers, is generally very treatable and has an excellent prognosis. However, some patients develop resistance to the more common therapies over time, leading to recurrence of the primary tumour, and in some cases, metastasis and eventual death.

Led by Professor William Gallagher, an Associate Professor of Cancer Biology at University College Dublin, BREAST-PREDICT researchers have discovered that patients whose primary tumours express a protein called PRDX1 are more likely to develop a recurrence in the future. This finding may have implications for future breast cancer care, where it could be used to help guide treatment decisions in these patients

More than 50 researchers are working on this research programme which will run for a period of five years, with an investment of €7.5 million from the Irish Cancer Society. At the heart of the study is the development of a national breast cancer biobank and database which includes tumour tissue, blood samples and patient information collected, with permission, from almost every breast cancer patient in the country. BREAST-PREDICT is using this data to improve its understanding of how breast cancer can spread and become resistant to treatment.

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