Blocking Cystine May Starve a Hard to Treat Breast Cancer

A Unique Perspective
Block Cancer

Cancer cells have a high-powered metabolism that demands a steady stream of nutrients for fuel. Scientists may have discovered a way to “starve” a hard-to-treat form of breast cancer by depriving the cells of a crucial substance.

Feed a Cold, Starve Cancer?

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a particularly aggressive and treatment-resistant form. In a study performed at Duke University, researchers found that the cells have an “addiction” to a nutrient called cystine, and deprivation causes them to die off quickly.

Further examination showed that the addiction is triggered by a mechanism used by the cells to migrate to other parts of the body, a process known as metastasis. According to Jen-Tsan Ashley Chi, associate professor at Duke University School of Medicine and lead author of the study, the metastasized cells are the primary target of treatment.

What’s Next?

Chi’s group had previously published a study showing that the cells in a stubborn form of kidney cancer are also subject to the cystine addiction. The next step is to test cystine-blocking molecules on tumors and look for biomarkers that will signal cancer cells that are receptive to the treatment.

As Chi explains, tumor cells use this programming to move rapidly around the body. The researchers’ goal is to take advantage of the same process for a cure.

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Could the X Chromosome Hold a Key to Cancer Incidence?

New Cancer Research
New Cancer Research

High school biology teaches that the Y chromosome is what distinguishes males from females, who have two X chromosomes. Cancer researchers are exploring the possibility that the additional X chromosome may hold a key to why women have a lower incidence of cancer than men.

Genetic Gender Bias?

The so-called “male bias” runs across all types of cancer. In the past it was thought to be caused by men’s greater exposure to environmental factors such as cigarette smoke and chemicals, but that didn’t explain a similar bias in juvenile cancers like pediatric leukemia.

According to Dr. Andrew Lane of Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, lead author of the study, everyone carries tumor suppressor genes that protect cells from cancer. When cancer develops, these genes lose functionality.

Strength in Numbers

The study revealed the genes that were mutated more frequently in male cancers occurred on the X chromosome. While this sounds counterintuitive, there’s more to the story.

One copy of the X chromosome is shut down in all cells, a process known as X inactivation. But approximately 50 of the 800 genes on the X chromosome are spared, leaving women with two sets of those particular genes. As a result, any cancer that develops must mutate twice as many of the genes in women as in men.

Genomic Testing and Immunotherapy for Cancer

Each patient’s cancer is unique, which is why genomic testing is one of the special methods we use at Issels®. Contact us for more information about our personally tailored immunotherapy for cancer treatments that destroy cancer cells while strengthening your body’s own natural defenses.

New Medication May Effectively Treat Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Cancer Survivors: A Unique Perspective on Hope
Breast Cancer Research

The term “breast cancer” encompasses several subtypes of the diseases, including triple-negative breast cancer, a more aggressive form that occurs frequently in younger women. Scientists in Ireland recently made a discovery that holds promise as an more effective treatment than chemotherapy, which is currently the only available option for this cancer subtype.

What Is Triple-Negative Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is usually categorized by the presence or absence of three different receptors that fuel the growth of tumors. Triple-negative breast cancer lacks all three receptors, making it unresponsive to the targeted treatments often used with breast cancer.

BREAST-PREDICT is the Irish Cancer Society Collaborative Cancer Research Centre where the recent study was conducted. Researchers identified a drug called APR-246 that can prevent the growth of certain cancer cells.

APR-246 Can Mean New Hope for Breast Cancer Patients

Results of the study were published last year in the International Journal of Cancer. Naoise Synnott, the PhD student who performed the research, said she decided to focus her efforts on triple-negative breast cancer because of the lack of effective treatment for the disease.

Currently, chemotherapy is the only form of treatment available to patients with triple-negative breast cancer. Unfortunately, many of them don’t respond, leaving them to suffer the side effects of chemotherapy with no positive outcome.

Approximately one in six cases of breast cancer worldwide is diagnosed as triple-negative. The next step with APR-246 is conducting clinical trials to evaluate real-life results.

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The Presence of a Molecular Marker May Predict Breast Cancer for Early Treatment

The Molecular Mark

Breast cancer is still the leading cause of death for women who suffer from cancer, but early detection can improve the chances of successful treatment. In 2016 a group of researchers identified a molecular marker that can indicate a woman’s risk for developing the disease.

Identifying a Common Thread

The study was conducted by a joint team from Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). Researchers reviewed biopsies from 302 women who had been diagnosed with benign breast disease. Some of the biopsies dated back to 40 years ago.

Out of this group, 69 women later developed cancer and 233 did not. It was discovered that women with a higher percentage of a particular marker were more likely to develop cancer.

Ki67 is a molecular marker found in the lining of the mammary ducts and milk-producing lobules that identifies proliferating cells. These tissues are the site where most breast cancers develop.

The Present and Future of Ki67 Testing

While Ki67 testing is already being used to determine courses of treatment, this discovery will allow doctors to test precancerous tissue for use as a predictive tool. The method could help avoid some of the drawbacks of mammograms, which are currently the best option for early detection.

Immunotherapy for Cancer: A Personalized Method of Treatment

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Strategic T Cells Use May Be the Key to Effective Cancer Treatment

Advanced T Cells

T cells are the warriors of your immune system, but the ongoing battle against cancer can sap them of their disease-fighting powers. New research has discovered crucial information about these “exhausted” cells that can lead to more powerful immunotherapy for cancer.

The fundamental difference between active and exhausted T cells lies in their gene patterns. One example is PD-1, a protein expressed by exhausted T cells that prevents them from attacking both healthy and diseased cells. Checkpoint inhibitors can block PD-1, but their use is productive in only 25 percent of cases.

Can “Exhausted” T Cells Be Revived?

According to Nicholas Haining of Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s, senior author of the report posted in the journal Science, the goal of the study was to determine whether exhausted T cells are simply run-down versions of functional T cells or a separate type entirely. Regulatory regions of T cell genomes were mapped using chronically infected mice as subjects.

Results showed that the two types of cells are controlled by completely different wiring. In a separate study, use of checkpoint inhibitors gave the exhausted T cells a temporary boost, but did nothing to convert them to an active state.

The researchers hope this information will help to improve CAR T-cell therapy, in which T cells are removed from a patient and retrofitted to attack tumor cells. Complete mapping of regulatory regions will provide more precise targets for treatment.

Immunotherapy for Cancer Focuses on Tumors and Their Causes

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Some Immunotherapy Drugs May Cause Heart Damage But There Is the Issels Safe Alternative

New Immunotherapy Drugs

New immunotherapy drugs on the market have shown tremendous benefits in battling cancer, but a potentially serious side effect has come to light recently. Some of these drugs, especially when used in combination, may cause heart damage.

Putting the Immune System in Overdrive

In November 2016 the New England Journal of Medicine published a report from a team of experts led by Dr. Javid Moslehi of Vanderbilt University. It involved two melanoma patients who died two weeks after their initial doses of Opdivo and Yervoy, manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Opdivo and Yervoy are part of the class of drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors that boost the immune system’s ability to fight cancer cells. In some rare cases, it appears that the immune system also begins attacking the heart and other muscles.

Patient safety records at Bristol-Myers revealed that 18 patients out of 20,594 people receiving one or both drugs had experienced heart inflammation (for a rate of 0.09 percent). The rate increased for patients using both drugs, but it was still less than one percent.

Doctors are Cautious but Optimistic

According to Dr. Jeffrey Sosman of Chicago’s Northwestern University, who treated both patients in the report, overstimulation of the immune system was a known possibility. Many doctors believe drug combos are still the best option for effective treatment, but they are stressing that patients need to be informed of the risk and monitored closely.

Issels® Has Decades of Experience with Non-Toxic, Safe Immunotherapy for Cancer

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