PUBLISHED ON: 22 April 2021

It's thanks to your support that our researchers can continue to find new ways to prevent breast cancer, save lives and make sure people live well with and beyond the disease. We simply couldn't do it without you.

Professor Andy Sewell in his lab

Finding new treatments for breast cancer

One research project, carried out by Professor Andrew Sewell and his team at Cardiff University, could lead to a new, kinder and more effective treatment for people facing breast cancer.

Andrew’s research focuses on the type of treatment that turns on the immune system so it can recognise and destroy cancer cells. These are called immunotherapies.

Our immune system is made up of specialised cells, tissues and organs that work together to protect our bodies from disease. There are many types of immune cells and each has a unique role. Researchers are particularly interested in using a group of immune cells called ‘T cells’ to treat cancer.

T cells can assess whether a cell is a friend or foe. They can then trigger an immune response and activate other immune cells against the cancer cells.

Research has been promising so far

T cell therapies have shown success in treating people with advanced skin cancer. Andrew and his team have found the specific T cells responsible for targeting skin cancer and now they’re working to find out if these T cells could be used to successfully treat breast cancer.

So far, they have found that these T cells can target breast cancer without harming healthy tissue or causing the immune system to overreact. The most exciting thing is that they could potentially be used for all cancer patients.

T cells rely on a molecule called HLA to recognise cancer cells. As these molecules are different in every person, it means T cell therapies can only be made for the individual.

But, the T cells found by Andrew’s team don’t rely on HLA molecules, meaning they could be used to treat many more people.

Expanding our understanding of existing treatments

Our researchers are now working on ways to understand more about these T cells. There may be a potential to use this knowledge in new diagnostic tests to detect the early stages of cancer in people at risk of the disease.

Andrew hopes their research will lead to safe and effective immunotherapies for breast cancer that can be made on a large scale and help improve the lives of people with the disease.

It’s your support that’s made this research possible – thank you.

 

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