A Breakthrough in Breast Cancer Study Could Result in More Effective and Customized Therapies

Breast Cancer
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A novel instrument created by scientists may result in more effective, customized therapies for advanced breast cancer. Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London have identified the critical characteristics of B cells that enable them to effectively target tumors, even in cases when the cancer has metastasized to an alternative site within the body. White blood cells known as B cells work to fight infection by producing antibodies. Their role in combating infections and cancer is crucial.

In order to find genetic differences in the B cells, the researchers employed a method known as B cell receptor sequencing on biopsies taken from patients who had breast cancer. They concentrated on the B cells of individuals receiving treatment for early-stage breast cancer as well as those with metastatic breast cancer who passed away after the disease had spread to other body parts.

The researchers discovered that the B cell transforms to become even more proficient at pursuing cancer cells when a receptor on the cell recognizes and attaches to one of the cancer cells.
At various locations where the cancer had progressed, there were some distinct B cells that had altered their genetic makeup after attacking cancer cells. This indicates that B cells travel to many locations across the body in search of cancer after identifying it in one particular spot.

Using this data, scientists created a technique to forecast which B cells would be best suited to identify and attack cancer cells. The technology may be used to identify the anti-cancer B cells that a patient responds to the best and to produce the antibodies these B cells produce in a lab.
The idea is to use this to “supercharge” a patient’s immune system by administering it as a customized immunotherapy treatment.

Dr Stephen-John Sammut, first author on the study and leader of the Cancer Dynamics Group at the ICR, said: “The computational tool we have developed will allow us to zoom in and identify the B cells that have recognised cancer cells, as well as the antibodies they are producing. This will allow us to develop anti-cancer antibody treatments similar to the ones the B cells produce, which can then be given as a personalised treatment to boost the immune system’s response against breast cancer that has spread.”

Researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford also participated in the study.

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