Targets for Immunotherapy in Early-Stage Breast Cancer: Latest Research Reveals

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By Indrani Bhattacharyya | July 21, 2014 12:48 PM EST

Breast cancer claims thousands of innocent lives across the globe every year. Based on the different stages of breast cancer, the doctors decide on the mode of treatment.

Scientists from all over the world are presently working in order to find out newer and more effective methods to treat this devastating disease.

Reuters
KYLIE MINOGUE: Australian pop star Kylie Minogue, 44, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and went through surgery and chemotherapy. Her 2006 "Showgirl Homecoming Tour" represented her comeback from cancer.

Through one such attempt, researchers from Yale Cancer Center utilised a novel molecular analysis tool for accurate detection of the level of an important target for immunotherapy in early-stage breast cancers.

This specific diagnostic test where RNAScope is used, helps measuring the amount of PD-L1 (programmed death ligand 1) mRNA in formalin-fixed cancer tissues. It doesn’t have technical issues like plague antibody-based detection method which is known to have yielded lots of conflicting results before.

PD-L1 is known to be a renowned target of several novel immune stimulatory therapies in clinical trials.

This work got published in the Journal of Clinical Cancer Research.

PD-L1 is a protein that plays a significant role in suppressing immune response, and in breast cancer, it usually allows tumours to escape immune attack.

According to this study, about 60 per cent of early-stage breast cancer patients show PD-L1 expression, and a subset of these cancers also show great numbers of tumour infiltrating lymphocytes. High levels of lymphocytes and PD-L1 are needed for better survival which in turn suggests a beneficial role for the immune system in order to partially control these cancers.

"This is exciting because these findings provide the rationale to test PD-L1 targeted therapies in breast cancer with the hope of further improving cure rates in early stage breast cancer," said Lajos Pusztai, professor of Medical Oncology and chief of Breast Medical Oncology at Smilow Cancer Hospital, Yale Cancer Center, and an author on the study. "Patients with many tumor infiltrating lymphocytes and high PD-L1 expression may be the ideal candidates for these therapies."

The in situ mRNA detection method used in the work has successfully eliminated many of the technical problems which are found in that other older immunohistochemistry assays, Pusztai was quoted saying.

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(Photo: Reuters / /Robert Galbraith)
KYLIE MINOGUE: Australian pop star Kylie Minogue, 44, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and went through surgery and chemotherapy. Her 2006 "Showgirl Homecoming Tour" represented her comeback from cancer.
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