Breast Cancer Biology
We know more about breast cancer biology than ever before.
With this understanding, we are able to create and adapt new and better treatments for breast cancer and help to individualise treatment for patients.
Associate Professor Aleix Prat is the Head of Medical Oncology at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona in Spain and was an international guest speaker at the latest Breast Cancer Trials Annual Scientific Meeting.
He has a strong interest in breast cancer biology as part of his research and says this research is helping to improve treatments.
“As we are studying the biology of breast cancer, we are beginning to understand that we might be able to test drugs that are already being used for other settings.”
“Maybe we are missing an opportunity in settings that we never thought about but thanks to analysing the biology of those breast cancer tumours, we are realising those tumours are the same as the ones that are benefiting from particular treatments in other settings.”
Breast Cancer Biology and PARP Inhibitors
PARP Inhibitors like Olaparib have been approved for use in Australia for patients with early breast cancer. But research in still continuing into the benefits in other disease types.
“So, these are drugs for patients with BRCA1 and BRCA2 germ-line carriers, in the metastatic setting in HER2 negative disease, which have been approved (overseas).”
“These drugs provide substantial benefit and we are starting to understand when we analyse the biology of the breast cancers, there are a group of patients who have tumours that look just like patients with BRCA1, BRCA2 germ-line mutations.”
“From a biological perspective we cannot even distinguish the two.”
“So potentially these group of patients that do not have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations could benefit from PARP Inhibitors. I think here we have an opportunity to test these drugs in that setting and it’s thanks to analysing the biology of these tumours that we have this hypotheses.
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Associate Professor Aleix Prat discusses how continuing research into breast cancer biology is helping improve treatments & how tumour biopsies can help patients in the future.
Breast Cancer Biology and Cellular Therapy
Associate Professor Prat said another area of interest in breast cancer biology is trials in which the immune system is manipulated with cellular therapy to help the patient.
“This is providing huge benefits today in the haematology world, in leukemia.”
“What I am talking about is getting the immune system out of the patient in the lab, manipulate the cells of the immune system of the patient, expand that immune system and re-infuse the immune system to the patient and this is called adoptive T cell therapy.”
The Importance of Breast Cancer Tumour Samples
Associate Professor Prat said it’s critical that when undertaking research in breast cancer biology, to get tumour samples.
“It’s important that patients understand that if we do an extra biopsy, or if we do an extra blood draw, is because those tumour samples are going to be so valuable,” he said.
“Not maybe for them at that right moment, but they’re going to provide a lot of information regarding how to move the field forward and unless we do that, it’s going to be very difficult.”
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