Australian researchers discover new immunotherapy treatment to cure BRCA1 breast cancer


Researchers at Australia’s Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have discovered a new treatment using immunotherapy to treat women with an aggressive form of BRCA1 breast cancer.

Immunotherapy is a breakthrough mode of cancer treatment that utilises the patient’s immune system by boosting the immune cells to attack tumours. It has previously been effectively used for the treatment of melanoma and lung cancers.

New research has revealed that triple negative breast cancers in women with BRCA1 mutations can be effectively treated by combining two immunotherapy drugs.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute's professor Geoff Lindeman said: “Triple negative breast cancers have not seen the same improvement in targeted therapies, or survival, as some other types of breast cancer.

“Our study showed that combining anti-PD1 and anti-CTLA4 immunotherapies with chemotherapy halted the growth of BRCA1-related tumours and significantly improved survival in laboratory models.”

"Our study showed that combining anti-PD1 and anti-CTLA4 immunotherapies with chemotherapy halted the growth of BRCA1-related tumours."

Triple negative breast cancers are said to be more aggressive and have more chances to recur than other types.

Functioning as immune checkpoint inhibitors, anti-PD1 and anti-CTLA4 immunotherapies release brakes on critical immune cells, allowing them to attack the tumour.

Dr Daniel Gray from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute said that the combination of these two therapies can restore the ability of the immune cells in the patient’s body to attack and kill triple negative breast tumour cells, as well as effectively control the growth of tumour.

As stated by Peter Mac breast cancer clinical trials research head associate professor Sherene Loi, work was "already underway to translate these important findings from laboratory models of breast cancer into a clinical trial for women with the disease".


Image: Researchers from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. Photo: courtesy of Peter Mac.