A breakthrough in the fight against triple-negative breast cancer: A team of Canadian and Australian researchers discover a promising treatment avenue

MONTREAL, June 26, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - An international research team of Canadian and Australian scientists led by CRCHUM's Dr. John Stagg have found that an enzyme in triple-negative breast cancer makes patients less responsive to chemotherapy. This important discovery opens the door to new treatments for patients with this particularly virulent cancer.

Triple negative breast cancer accounts for 15% of all breast cancers and is associated with a poor outlook. It is characterized by the absence of three key receptors (oestrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2). Standard treatment, such as hormone therapy, cannot be used for triple negative breast cancer.

In a study published in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, Stagg's team found that CD73 made the breast cancer more resistant to chemotherapy with anthracyclines. This drug works not only by killing the tumour cells, but also by activating the body's anti-tumour immune response.

Stagg and his team revealed that the overexpression of CD73 inhibits the body's immune response to cancer. Moreover, the heightened presence of CD73 is associated with a higher risk of distant metastases, the principal cause of death in breast cancer.

"These results are quite encouraging," says Stagg, "because they suggest that therapies specifically designed to block the action of CD73 could make it possible to enhance the beneficial effects of anthracycline-based therapies."  Indeed, in experiments with laboratory animals, Stagg's team showed that combining standard anthracycline treatment with anti-CD73 therapy prolonged survival by over 50%. More research is required to determine whether anti CD73 therapies can also be effective with other chemotherapeutic agents.

Human trials of inhibitors of CD73 could begin within five years, meaning that there is hope on the horizon for triple negative breast cancer patients.

This research was jointly led by Professor Mark Smyth of The Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Australia, and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Cancer Research Society, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) of Australia and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, USA.

About the study
"CD73 promotes anthracycline resistance and poor prognosis in triple negative breast cancer" was published in the June 17, 2013 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of United States. To view the abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23776241

About Dr. John Stagg
Dr. Stagg is a researcher in the Cancer theme at the University of Montreal Hospital research Centre, an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Montreal and a researcher affiliated with Montreal Cancer Institute. He is also the Jean-Guy Sabourin Family Pharmaceutical Chair in Women's Health. His research is funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Cancer Research Society, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, United States.

About the CRCHUM
The CRCHUM improves the health of adults through a high-quality academic research continuum which, by improving our understanding of etiological and pathogenic mechanisms, fosters the development, implementation and assessment of new preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. The CRCHUM provides a training environment to ensure the development of new generations of researchers committed to research excellence. www.crchum.com

The CHUM, your partner in health and well-being
The Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) first and foremost provides highly specialized healthcare in all medical specialties to a regional and supra-regional adult clientele. It is the main centre for development and knowledge transfer through its integrated activities in healthcare, teaching, research, assessment of technologies and treatment methods, as well as quality, the promotion of health and the patient experience. As of 2016, the CHUM will offer an improved hospital experience in its new downtown Montréal facilities. The CHUM is an active member of the Réseau universitaire intégré de santé (RUIS) de l'Université de Montréal. chumontreal.qc.ca

SOURCE: Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal

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Communication Division
Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM)

For information :
Isabelle Lavigne
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Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM)
Telephone : 514 890-8000, extension 15380
Pager : 514 860-7110

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