New research at the Institute may offer a sliver of hope for treating “triple-negative” breast cancer. “Triple-negative” refers to the fact that the breast cancer cells are missing the three different receptors targeted by the currently available drugs, for instance Herceptin and steroid hormone blockers. This type of cancer also tends to be fairly aggressive, and the risk of early recurrence is higher than for other types of breast cancer.
Triple-negative breast cancer cells do have other receptors – particularly EGFR, a growth factor receptor that would seem to be a good target for anticancer antibodies. The problem is that previously tested agents that block EGFR have been found to be ineffective in treating the cancer.
The Weizmann team’s innovation was to go after the EGF receptor with two different antibodies that bound to the receptor from different sides. More than just a one-two punch, the double attack worked better than expected. The scientists think that the weight of the two antibodies on one receptor may not only block it, but cause it to collapse back into the tumor cell.
All of this, we should point out, worked in mice. Any human studies are well in the future. On the other hand, if the study results are born out, the double-attack approach could prove fruitful for other types of cancer, as well.
Two other news items that went online today: