Dr John Maher and team
New powerful treatments are being developed which could target breast cancer cells even if they have spread to other parts other the body, but there is a danger they could affect normal tissues too. We need to find new treatments to improve chances of survival, but also minimise their side effects.
With previous funding, Dr Maher has developed a type of immunotherapy known as CAR T cell therapy, which directs the immune system to specifically attack cells that overproduce a protein called HER2, as in HER2-positive breast cancer. However, some normal cells in the heart and lungs also produce small amounts of HER2, which means that this immunotherapy could have severe side effects. In this project, Dr Maher aims to modify his immunotherapy so that it is only activated when HER2 is present in large amounts.
He will do this by incorporating a brake mechanism into the treatment, which would prevent the immune system attacking cells that only have small amounts of HER2 on them. This means cells in the lungs and heart would be protected from being attacked by the immune system, but the immunotherapy would still be effective against breast cancer cells where the HER2 protein is overproduced.
What difference will this project make?
By taking steps to minimise the potential for side effects, Dr Maher’s immunotherapy research could lead to a revolutionary new type of treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer. This could be used to control the spread of breast cancer, as the immune system would be able to seek out HER2-positive breast cancer cells throughout the body.
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