Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed form of cancer in Australia. Strategies to treat primary breast cancer have vastly improved with 90 per cent of patients surviving for at least five years after early treatment. However, treatments for advanced stages of breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body – metastasis – are less effective. Hence, metastasis remains the underlying cause of death for the majority of breast cancer patients.
Dr Gilles Guillemin, based at Macquarie University Hospital, is targeting a different immunotherapy approach based on the kynurenine pathway – a key biochemical pathway which is linked with inflammation. Although this pathway produces essential energy for the body and regulate the immune system, tumour cells can “hack” the kynurenine pathway to escape the immune response and keep growing.
Based on their preliminary data on 360 breast cancer patients and 90 control samples, they will aim to 1) identify a set of blood biomarkers to differentiate between breast cancer sub-types, 2) assess patient’s response to treatments and 3) identify new therapeutic targets to stop metastasis.