Targeted Therapies Offer Hope For Breast Cancer Patients
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in India and worldwide. In breast cancer, the cells in the breast grow abnormally in an uncontrollable manner. Although anyone can get breast cancer, women above fifty are more likely to develop this cancer. A combination of surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy is usually the treatment option for breast cancer. When detected early, there is a better chance of recovery. But when cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is not curable, and treatment aims to control the symptoms and reduce recurrence. Let’s discuss how targeted therapies could offer hope for breast cancer patients.
Targeted Therapy And Breast Cancer
Cancer treatment is mainly focused on killing the cancer cells, but unfortunately, some healthy cells are affected during the treatment, leading to multiple side effects. Targeted therapy is a rapidly growing field in cancer research that may help minimize the side effects. With many decades of research, scientists have come up with the invention of targeted therapies by understanding the differences between normal cells and cancer cells.
Targeted therapy is the use of medicines or drugs to precisely identify and attack the cancer cells resulting in lesser side effects. It works by inhibiting the action of proteins or genes that are involved in the growth of tumors. Targeted therapy is given alone or in combination with other treatments such as chemotherapy. There are many types of targeted therapies, and the most common ones are monoclonal antibodies and small-molecule drugs.
The EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) is the protein found on certain types of cells and binds to a molecule called an epidermal growth factor. The EGFR protein is involved in the control of cell division and survival. When mutations (changes) occur in the EGFR genes, it leads to the overproduction of EGFR cells in some cancer cells. This can cause the cancer cell to multiply rapidly. Similarly, HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) and HER3 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 3) proteins overexpressed can also lead to the rapid multiplication of cancer cells.
EGFR expression is associated with HER2 overexpression, and this is correlated to aggressive cancer and a higher risk of relapse in patients who received treatment. Blocking these proteins could improve outcomes in certain patients. Research shows that around 20 to 25 % of breast cancers have HER2 expression and 16 to 36% percent of breast cancers have EGFR protein. Targeted therapy could offer hope for breast cancer in these cases.
What Recent Research Says? How Could Targeted Therapy Offer Hope For Breast Cancer?
Until recently, PARP inhibitors, a type of targeted therapy, were mainly used in the treatment of cancer in the ovary. It is now also used to treat breast cancers. A study published in 2021 states that among breast cancer patients with a mutation in the BRCA genes, olaparib (PARP inhibitor) after local treatment (such as surgery) was associated with significantly longer disease-free survival compared to those who didn’t receive it.
In a 2018 study conducted by the medical college of Georgia at Augusta University, created a tripartite chimera molecule (HER2 aptamer-EGFR siRNA-HER3 aptamer chimera) which has the ability to simultaneously lower the three growth factors HER1, HER3 and EGFR. Blockade of one receptor by a drug involving one target is often compensated by other HER family members, but this new molecule can overcome this problem by acting on three targets at the same time. This newly crafted molecule is a promising supplement to the current single HER inhibitor drugs and will work on certain drug-resistant breast cancers. Besides, research shows that it is a cost-efficient, simple to produce and non-toxic molecule.
In a 2021 study published in Medical Oncology, researchers designed a novel chimera protein (ARA‑linker‑TGFαL3) to target breast cancer. The molecule showed higher anti-cancer activity on EGFR-expressing breast cancer cells and may be developed into a potential anticancer agent against aggressive cancer called TNBC (Triple-negative breast cancer).
Healthy Lifestyle Offers Hope In Prevention And Managing The Symptoms
Advances in the treatment and diagnosis of cancers increased the survival rate for many cancers. But preventing an unpleasant situation is always better than managing it, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 30 to 50% of cancer conditions can be prevented by avoiding the risk factors such as alcohol drinking and tobacco smoking. Healthy lifestyle habits such as foods rich in vegetables and fruits, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising can lower the risk of developing cancers. They also help manage symptoms along with treatment.