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New research could provide key to overcoming resistance to HER2 targeted cancer treatments
Date:6/10/2014

Dublin, Ireland, June 11th, 2014 Scientists from the School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, Trinity College Dublin have made a significant discovery of a new biomarker which may help overcome resistance to newer and more targeted anti-cancer drugs, such as Herceptin, for HER2 positive cancers. These findings may also help the early identification of patients who will benefit more from these treatments.

The researchers, led by Professor Lorraine O'Driscoll, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Trinity, studied breast cancer cells and their extracellular vesicles (exosomes), which are 'packages' of information released out of cells. They discovered a molecule called Neuromedin U (NmU) which is strongly associated with resistance to the new anti-cancer drugs for HER2 positive cancers. This suggests NmU could be used as a biological marker to indicate the likelihood of responsiveness in a particular patient and may also be very important in the management of resistance to these drugs. The findings have just been published in leading international, peer reviewed journal: Cancer Research, the most frequently cited cancer journal in the world.

About one quarter of breast cancer patients are known as being HER2 positive, where the protein HER2 is found at greater amounts on cancer cells compared to normal cells and which is associated with a poorer prognosis for the patient. A relatively new range of targeted anti-cancer drugs became available in recent years to treat patients with HER2 positive breast cancer and some other cancers such as HER2 positive gastric cancer. The best known one is Herceptin (trastuzumab), but there are other newer drugs in this family, including lapatinib, neratinib, afatinib, pertuzumab, T-DM1.

Speaking about the challenges some patients face with these newer anti-cancer drugs, Professor O'Driscoll said: "Many patients with HER2 positive tumours gain huge benefit from these drugs. Unfortunately, how
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Contact: Yolanda Kennedy
yokenned@tcd.ie
353-189-63551
Trinity College Dublin
Source:Eurekalert

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