JUL 17, 2020 3:23 AM PDT

Tackling the Problem of Toxicity in Breast Cancer Therapy

WRITTEN BY: Jasper Cantrell

Chemotherapy has been one of the primary methods of cancer treatment for decades. Usually, a doctor applies a chemotherapy drug pre- or post-surgery to prevent recurrence in a patient. However, chemotherapy has always come with toxicity issues, a problem that scientists intend to tackle head-on.  

HER2+ breast cancer is a common subtype of breast cancer with a standard treatment of chemotherapy with trastuzumab and doxorubicin. This combination can induce remission in up to fifty percent of patients. The problem is that doxorubicin is quite toxic, and both components are needed to obtain the high remission rate.

One group from Universita di Milano in Italy hypothesized that they could modify doxorubicin with a protein called H-ferritin and suppress doxorubicin's toxic effects. H-ferritin brings the attached doxorubicin (HFn-DOX) to tumors by binding to a surface receptor overexpressed in breast cancer cells, preventing it from reaching off-target sites and causing harmful effects. Previous studies have shown this doxorubicin variant reduces toxicity in other breast cancers. This study sought to determine if the combination had the same impact in Her2+ breast cancer.

They began by examining if there was a difference between trastuzumab, doxorubicin, or HFn-DOX alone or in combination in a mouse model. The HFn-DOX outperformed doxorubicin in both single and combination tests. It elicited a similar anti-cancer effect as trastuzumab alone and combined with trastuzumab provided the best anti-cancer effects.

They then measured the toxicity of the HFn-DOX with trastuzumab to determine if it was safer than doxorubicin. Previous work by the group had already shown that HFn-DOX alone was far less toxic than doxorubicin. With trastuzumab, it actually decreased the expected toxicity.  Trastuzumab has some toxicity associated with its use, so this was a surprising result. Further investigation identified that when trastuzumab was cotreated with DOX or hFn-DOX, it accumulated in tumors to a higher degree. This prevented its accumulation in off-target organs, and the toxicity effects that followed.

The team theorized that HFn-DOX could somehow open up HER2+ tumors to be targeted by trastuzumab. This study could not elaborate further, but supports HFn-DOX/trastuzumab combination therapy as a possible replacement for the current standard. Further studies may reveal the mechanism behind this effect, and maybe even outline an effective chemotherapy to achieve the same fifty percent remission- minus the toxic side effects.

Sources: Nature Scientific Reports, Targeted Oncology

About the Author
  • Hey everyone! My name is Jasper and, considering I am pretty new here to Labroots, I figured I would introduce myself. I received my bachelor’s from the University of California at Riverside back in 2016. I started off my career a few years ago with a job at a University over in New York, before moving over into the industry. I'm happy to be writing content for Labroots, and I hope you enjoy it!
You May Also Like
APR 06, 2021
Immunology
Lymphoma Patient Cured by "Reeducating" their Immune System
APR 06, 2021
Lymphoma Patient Cured by "Reeducating" their Immune System
Australian researchers have used a breakthrough therapy to cure a patient diagnosed with a rare brain lymphoma, a form o ...
MAY 08, 2021
Cancer
More evidence supports the evils of sugary drinks
MAY 08, 2021
More evidence supports the evils of sugary drinks
New research published online in the journal Gut from researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine i ...
MAY 23, 2021
Neuroscience
Study Links Alcohol Consumption to a Decline in Brain Health
MAY 23, 2021
Study Links Alcohol Consumption to a Decline in Brain Health
Thinking of cracking open a cold one this weekend? Researchers from the University of Oxford have identified a connectio ...
MAY 31, 2021
Immunology
Engineering Faster, More Agile T Cell Cancer Fighters
MAY 31, 2021
Engineering Faster, More Agile T Cell Cancer Fighters
Cell therapies use engineered T cells extracted from the patient’s own immune system to rally an attack on tumors. ...
JUN 06, 2021
Cancer
New drug reduces tumor size in lung cancer patients with KRAS gene mutation
JUN 06, 2021
New drug reduces tumor size in lung cancer patients with KRAS gene mutation
The most recent results from the CODEBREAK 100 phase 2 clinical trial support the use of the drug sotorasib to reduce tu ...
JUN 05, 2021
Cancer
How is the new hospital price transparency rule going?
JUN 05, 2021
How is the new hospital price transparency rule going?
New findings from an analysis of hospital price transparency have been published recently in JAMA. The analysis was ...
Loading Comments...