Immunotherapy’s exciting role in Breast Cancer - Latest news • Breast Cancer Foundation NZ

Immunotherapy’s exciting role in Breast Cancer

You have probably experienced your immune system in action many times – giving you a helping hand when you get a nasty winter cold or a dreaded sickness bug. But, what if it could be used to combat cancer?

April the 29th was the international day of Immunology which gave us a great opportunity to share some of the research being conducted in the emerging field of immunotherapy.

Our immune system plays an important role in how our body deals with cancer. Hopefully, this can be manipulated for the future treatment and prevention of breast cancer.

But, what is immunotherapy?

Our immune system has the ability to recognise cells in our body which aren’t normal and cancer cells aren’t deemed as normal cells.

Immunotherapy works on the idea we could program our immune system to find cancer cells and attack them, recognising them specifically - like a key fitting into a lock. Scientists are looking for ways to train the immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells.

Some of you may have heard of, or been prescribed the drug Herceptin. This is a targeted immunotherapy for HER2+ breast cancer. The drug can slow or in some cases stop the growth of cancer by binding to cancer cells in the lock and key manner.

Last year, we funded Sarah Young from Otago University to extend her work in cancer vaccines into breast cancer. Her team are taking the first steps towards creating a targeted immunotherapy approach for breast cancer. The vaccination will likely be personalised to the individual patient’s breast cancer.

Although the future of immunotherapy is promising, there is still a long way to come. It’s worth keeping your eyes open for new clinical trials through the clinical trials section of our website

The concept of our own body treating our cancer seems distant, yet, there are some fantastic international scientific research projects underway which will help us to begin unravelling this fascinating area of immunology.