Scientists find breast cancer tumour growth molecule

Women with an especially deadly form of breast cancer have been given new hope by the discovery of a molecule that helps their tumours grow and spread.

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Antibody reduced tumour size in the mice by 94.8%

In experiments on mice with the same type of HER2 positive breast cancer, scientists used an antibody drug to block activity of alpha v beta 6.

We found that simultaneously targeting alpha v beta 6 and HER2 in mice with tumours grown from human breast cancer cells greatly improved the effectiveness of Herceptin - even eliminating tumours that did not respond to Herceptin alone, which could have the potential to improve treatments for patients with these highly aggressive cancers.

– Researcher Dr Kate Moore, from Queen Mary University of London's Barts Cancer Institute

Combining the antibody with the drug Herceptin, which targets the cancer-driving HER2 protein, completely eradicated the animals' tumours after six weeks of treatment. Using the antibody on its own reduced the size of tumours in the mice by 94.8%.

In comparison, treatment with Herceptin alone led to a 77.8% reduction.

Up to 70% of women with HER2-positive breast cancer either do not respond to Herceptin or develop resistance to the drug, leaving up to 7,000 women a year in the UK with limited treatment options.

Scientists find breast cancer tumour growth molecule

Scientists found a molecule that helps tumours in an especially deadly form of breast cancer have grow and spread. The molecule, known as alpha v beta 6, could be used both to identify at-risk patients and develop new treatments, say scientists.

Scientists found a molecule that helps tumours in an especially deadly form of breast cancer have grow and spread. Credit: PA

A study found high levels of alpha v beta 6 in 40% of tumours in women with HER2 positive breast cancer, a form of the disease that does not respond to conventional hormone therapy. These patients were twice as likely to die within five years of diagnosis as those with low levels of the molecule.

In experiments on mice with the same type of breast cancer, scientists used an antibody drug to block activity of alpha v beta 6. Combining the antibody with the drug Herceptin, which targets the cancer-driving HER2 protein, completely eradicated the animals' tumours after six weeks of treatment.

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