New weapon found in war against triple-negative breast cancer

There's a war going on inside the bodies of cancer patients on chemotherapy. The work of anti-cancer agents is often undone by Bcl-2 proteins, which fend off attacking chemotherapy drugs and prevent cancer cells from dying. Now, researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Australia have found what they think is an effective counterattack against Bcl-2 and they're testing it in some of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.

They're deploying ABT-737, one of a new class of anti-cancer agents called BH3 mimetics that neutralize Bcl-2 proteins. The treatment is showing promise against hard-to-treat triple-negative breast cancer. The triple-negative name comes from the cancer's lack of response to therapies that target HER2, estrogen or progesterone receptors. Our sister pub FierceBiomarkers previously reported on work that names Bcl-2 as a marker for triple-negative breast cancer.

"ABT-737 targets proteins from the Bcl-2 family, which are found at high levels in up to 70% of breast cancers," researcher Geoff Lindeman said in a statement. "We have shown that breast tumors that have high levels of Bcl-2 respond well to treatment with ABT-737 when used in combination with a conventional chemotherapy drug."

So far so good in preclinical models of the disease, Lindeman said, but it's still a few years away from being tested in humans.

- read the release
- and the abstract in PNAS