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Australian researchers develop treatment to 'arrest growth' of rare breast cancer

Staff Writer |
Australian scientists announced that they have developed a treatment that is capable of stopping the growth of aggressive breast cancer tumours.

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Researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) in Melbourne are optimistic that their finding will offer hope to patients who carry a faulty BRCA1 gene that causes rare triple-negative breast cancer.

Triple negative breast cancer is a form of cancer that does not have the three receptors found on most cancers, rendering most drugs ineffective against the tumours.

Daniel Gray, the leader of the study, said that administering two immunotherapy drugs - anti-PD1 and anti-CTLA4 - as well as standard chemotherapy halted the growth of the aggressive tumours.

The immunotherapy drugs provide a boost to the immune system, which has usually been shut down by the cancer, effectively stopping growth while chemotherapy continue to attempt to shrink tumours.

"The combination of the two drugs and chemotherapy completely arrested the growth of the tumours," Gray told Australian media on Friday.

"It's a new treatment paradigm and we are really excited and pleased by these results."

Researchers said the method had proved successful in treating melanomas and lung cancer in the past but had never showed signs of slowing the progression of breast cancer.

"Our hope would be that we can combine two types of immunotherapy with chemotherapy to more effectively treat breast cancer for women who have a faulty BRCA1 gene and develop clinically aggressive breast cancers," Geoff Lindeman, a researcher from the Peter MacCallum Research Center who worked on the study, said.

Lindeman said that results were promising enough in trials to take the treatment to human trials.


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