VICTORIAN breast cancer patients will get access to world-first clinical trials with a big research funding boost unveiled today.
The $1.5 million Colebatch Clinical Research Fellowship grant will help fast-track a series of potentially game-changing trials, including the world’s first clinical trial of an immune-boosting drug for breast cancer.
The recipient, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre’s Dr Sherene Loi, said the grant would also allow her to focus on uncovering new genetic mutations of breast cancer, which could be the key to better treatment.
“If we can understand the specific genetic mutation that drives cancer growth then we can develop a drug that precisely targets it and there will be more chance the patient will benefit or be cured,” Dr Loi said.
“Finding these Achilles heels are the holy grail for cancer researchers.”
Cancer Council chief executive Todd Harper says the $1.5 million grant will help improve understanding of cancer detection and treatment.
One of the most promising trials could bring clinicians close to a cure for women with HER 2 positive breast cancers.
In this type of aggressive cancer, a protein called HER 2 allows the cells to grow and divide without being detected by the immune system.
“The HER 2 gene is the Achilles heel of this type of breast cancer,” Dr Loi said.
A drug called trastuzumab was developed to target the HER 2 protein and stop the cells from dividing and spreading, leading to a massive increase in survival rates over the past three decades.
The latest trial will build on evidence that the women with HER 2 positive breast cancer who have high levels of immune cells in their tumour respond better to treatment.
Dr Loi, who heads the Translational Breast Cancer Genomics Laboratory, said the trial to launch this year was the first breast cancer immunotherapy clinical trial.
It will give women a combination of an immune-boosting drug and trastuzumab or Herceptin to see if it leads to more effective treatment.
“We strongly believe we will be able to come close to a cure for most women with HER 2 positive breast cancer in the next 5-10 years,” Dr Loi said.
Cancer Council chief executive Todd Harper said the $1.5 million grant, made possible through the Reg Geary Estate, would help improve understanding of cancer detection and treatment.
Dr Loi said during the five-year fellowship she would also work with international and national researchers to sequence thousands of breast cancer tumours in a bid to find more genetic mutations like HER 2.
The grant will also allow several trials of new drugs to proceed.
Story source: Herald Sun