tracking tumor DNA, CART-T cells… what are these promising techniques for preventing recurrences?

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in France, and it is also the deadliest for women. Two out of ten women relapse within ten years of being diagnosed with breast cancer. While Pink October, the breast cancer awareness and screening campaign, starts on Saturday October 1, heading to the Institut Curie. In the first European center for the management of breast cancer, promising new techniques are being developed.

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They have already revolutionized treatments against blood cancers, CAR-T cells, tumor killer cells, are used in immunotherapy to boost the immune system of patients, it works very well for leukemia, for example. At the Institut Curie, clinical trials have started to apply this technique to breast cancer. “We’re actually going to modify the patient’s immune cells to target cancer cells, this is what we call CAR-T cells.explains Alain Puisieux, research director at the Curie Institute. And we will try to optimize the survival, the efficiency, of these CART-T cells to act in particular against hematopoietic tumors [un groupe de cancers qui proviennent des globules blancs]because it is essentially in this context that they are used, but also in solid tumours, including breast cancer.”

Another revolutionary technique is being tested in the laboratory: this time it involves attacking the ability of cancer cells to adapt. One of the researchers from the Institut Curie discovered that tumor cells love iron, that they use it to resist treatment and be more aggressive, so he developed a molecule that blocks this process. “Iron is essential for life, especially obviously for hemoglobin. For example when you have anemia [une baisse anormale du taux d’hémoglobine dans le sang] we give irondecrypts Manuel Rodriguez, medical oncologist at the Curie Institute. Tumor cells know how to exploit this iron for resistance mechanisms, for survival mechanisms, just as tumor cells also know how to exploit sugar. For us, what is very important is to understand how they use iron perversely, inappropriately, to affect the tumor cell at this level.”

Surveillance is essential after breast cancer, so to detect a recurrence, there is a brand new technique: tracking tumor DNA, a simple blood test can identify cancer cells, so for the moment we do not can do this type of blood test only in certain hospitals and in cancer centres.

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