Belgian researchers make a breakthrough in the fight against breast cancer
Steph Deschamps / May 8, 2021
A study by the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), the University Hospital of Leuven (UZ Leuven) and the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology has discovered a technique for determining the effectiveness of immunotherapy in breast cancer patients at an advanced stage, the university hospital said Friday in a press release. With this new technique, individual cells can be observed before and after treatment.
Currently, immunotherapy is a standard treatment for various cancers, both lung and skin. For breast cancer, immunotherapy is only possible in the case of metastases. Moreover, it is a very expensive therapy that is only effective in one out of three patients. Indeed, until now, the effects of immunotherapy could only be noticed after three months of treatment.
Using this new single-cell technique, the researchers in this study (recently published in Nature magazine) can determine in whom the therapy is effective after only one dose. This technique is therefore revolutionary, as it allows the study of tumor cells individually and in their environment in high resolution.
Previous techniques could only provide a general, mixed picture of the different types of cells that make up the tumor. In addition, the researchers also discovered so-called biomarkers in the cells that can give an early indication of whether the immunotherapy will work. Professor Ann Smets, a breast cancer surgeon and principal investigator of the study, is pleased. This is a great step to offer this treatment in the future to patients with early stage breast cancer. A follow-up study is planned to validate the results of this study and to be able to use the immunotherapy outside of scientific studies.