EU research association proves the significance of the immune system in prognosis and treatment

Diagnosis and Treatment of Breast Cancer:
EU research association proves the significance of the immune system in prognosis and Treatment

Cologne, 27 February 2015 – As part of the EU RESPONSIFY research project, immune markers in tumours, which not only affect the prognosis of a breast cancer patient but also predict the response to certain treatments, were identified for the first time. In patients with HER2-positive or triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) in particular, the results of the research point the way ahead. These types of breast carcinomas are characterised by an aggressive progression of the disease, meaning that the development of new treatment strategies is particularly necessary for these Patient Groups.

One chemotherapy option for these patients is the cytostatic drug Carboplatin, but this is associated with severe side effects. “The new markers give us the opportunity to determine for which patients Carboplatin actually presents a therapeutic advantage over other chemotherapy drugs. All other patients do not need to be subjected to the treatment and its additional side effects”, explains Dr Sibylle Loibl, co-chair of the German Breast Group and scientific co-ordinator of the EU project.

The new markers can also be used effectively as companion diagnostics in studies into medications that aim to strengthen the immune response to tumours. These new medications, which are known as immune checkpoint inhibitors, are currently being developed for patients whose immune systems are not adequately fighting the tumour cells. “The new biomarkers bring us a considerable step further along the path to personalised breast cancer medicine”, says Prof. Loibl.

The RESPONSIFY research project was thereby successfully concluded after three years of intensive study. The “ImmunoPredict” biomarker test is currently being developed for clinical practice by the company Sividon Diagnostics, which specialises in molecular tumour diagnostics. “Based on our experience, we believe that the development of the test will take around two years”, says PD Dr Ralf Kronenwett, Head of Research and Development at Sividon Diagnostics. “The outstanding results of the project are an excellent example of transnational and inter-institutional research work and will have a positive impact on the diagnostics and treatment of breast cancer patients”.

“RESPONSIFY– Genome-based biomarkers leading to validated molecular diagnostic tests for response prediction in breast cancer” was sponsored by the EU Commission and is part of the seventh research framework programme. In addition to the German Breast Group and Sividon Diagnostics, nine further international partner institutions are working on the identification of biomarkers, including the Charité in Berlin, the French Gustave Roussy Institute, the Jules Bordet Institute in Belgium and University College London. The funding amount was six million EUR.

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