Taubman Scholar Dr. Max Wicha: Research suggests help for Herceptin-resistant breast cancer patients


Blocking the IL-6 protein improved response to breast cancer drug

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Breast cancer treatments such as Herceptin that target a marker called HER2 have dramatically improved outcomes for women with this type of cancer. But nearly half of these cancers are resistant to Herceptin from the start and almost all of them will eventually become resistant.

 

Now, researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have discovered one reason why the cancer cells become resistant: They turn on a completely different pathway, one that is involved in inflammation, fueling the cancer independently of HER2.

The pathway at work involves a protein called Interleukin-6, or IL-6. The researchers also showed in mice that a drug that blocks IL-6 can stop this effect and overcome the Herceptin resistance.

“Resistance to HER2-targeted therapies remains a major challenge in treating breast cancer. Our study suggests that an IL-6 inhibitor in combination with Herceptin may be a valuable addition for treating HER2-positive breast cancer,” says senior study author Max S. Wicha, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Oncology and director of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Results of the study will be published in the Aug. 24 issue of Molecular Cell.

Not only are these cells resistant to Herceptin, but they develop higher proportions of cancer stem cells, the small number of cells within a tumor that fuel the growth and spread. This makes the tumor extremely aggressive and likely to spread throughout the body. The IL-6 inhibitor also was shown to prevent this increase in cancer stem cells.

“There is evidence that patients with a lot of IL6 tend to do poorly. What we found now is that in many of the Herceptin-resistant breast cancers, the IL6 inflammation loop is driving the cancer stem cell,” says lead study author Hasan Korkaya, D.V.M., Ph.D., research investigator at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The researchers found that blocking the IL6 inflammatory loop almost completely blocked the cancer and the stem cells. Mice treated with the IL-6 blocker along with Herceptin immediately after the cancer developed never became resistant to Herceptin.

IL-6 is known to play a role in inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, as well as obesity and cancer. A drug that targets this protein is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

The researchers are developing a clinical trial to test the IL-6 blocker along with Herceptin. That trial will likely open early in 2013.

Resources:

U-M Cancer AnswerLine, 800-865-1125
U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, www.mcancer.org
Clinical trials at U-M, www.UMClinicalStudies.org/cancer

 


Help Us Make A Difference. Make A Donation That Could Save Lives.

Make A Gift

Connect/
Share/
follow/

Follow Us / Friend Us

Discovery-driven research that matters

phallodin

Taubman Scholar Dr. Charles Burant tests promising diabetes drug

TAK-875, a new treatment for type 2 diabetes, improves blood sugar control and is equally effective as glimepiride, but has a significantly lower risk of creating a dangerous drop in blood sugar, called hypoglycemia, according to a new study.

Read more

Taubman Institute leaders make the case for more doctor-scientist funding

 

The prestigious "Academic Medicine" journal has just published a new article authored by Taubman Institute senior management and Detroit-area attorney Scott Roberts.

The article explores the problematic gap between bench research and clinical application of new treatments or cures. 

Read more


Help Us Make A Difference. Make A Gift.

Leaders from the realms of business, academia and the community help to refine the Taubman Institute's vision, to monitor progress and to provide support, advice and counsel.

Meet the Leadership Advisory Board

Meet the Scientific Advisory Board

About Taubman Institute Video

In this video feature, Taubman Scholars explain why funding for high-risk research is so important to their work and to the discovery of promising cures and treatments.  

 

Stem cell surgery targets ALS Video

Patients glean hope from trial’s progress but wish it were faster

 

video-emerging-scholars-programDonors pitch in to keep brilliant science minds at U-M Video

Emerging Scholars program connects promising M.D.-researchers with philanthropists