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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.

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