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
JUN 07, 2020
Cancer
T cell metabolism in old age
JUN 07, 2020
T cell metabolism in old age
New research published in Nature Communications suggests that the increased metabolism of T cells that we see with advan ...
JUN 14, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Why Are There So Few Black People in STEM?
JUN 14, 2020
Why Are There So Few Black People in STEM?
On June 10th, 2020, thousands of STEM scientists and organizations around the world went on strike to protest systemic r ...
JUL 03, 2020
Cancer
Using Machine Learning to Further Classify Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
JUL 03, 2020
Using Machine Learning to Further Classify Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
One of the challenges of facing cancer researchers is coming up with a clearly defined classification system. Cancer is ...
JUL 24, 2020
Cancer
A New Biomarker Candidate for Cancer Diagnostics
JUL 24, 2020
A New Biomarker Candidate for Cancer Diagnostics
One of the best tools in the fight against cancer is diagnostics. In 2018, colorectal cancer was the second most lethal ...
JUL 28, 2020
Cancer
Should you get your DNA test for community-based genetic screening?
JUL 28, 2020
Should you get your DNA test for community-based genetic screening?
In a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers champion the potential of community-based gene ...
AUG 09, 2020
Cancer
Reducing post-surgery metastasis in colorectal cancer patients
AUG 09, 2020
Reducing post-surgery metastasis in colorectal cancer patients
Scientists have recently shown the successful reduction of metastasis in post-surgery colorectal cancer patients. The st ...
Loading Comments...