Blocking CD24, a protein found on the outside of some cancer cells in triple negative breast cancer and other cancers, allows our immune system to find and destroy them, a new study has found.
New research from Stanford University has found that high levels of CD24 found on the surface of cancer cells can stop immune cells engulfing and destroying them, acting as a “don’t eat me” signal. This discovery adds to the list of other molecules known to have a similar effect in helping cancer cells hide from the immune system.
The paper, published in Nature, found that CD24 is present in high quantities on the surface of both ovarian and triple negative breast cancer cells and investigated to see if blocking this could lead to tumour shrinkage. They found that blocking CD24 caused the immune cells, called macrophages, to destroy the cancer cells which led to smaller tumours in mice and allowed them to live longer.
Further research is needed to understand how blocking the CD24 protein could work in humans.
Kotryna Temcinaite, Research Communications Manager at Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now, said:
This exciting research could potentially lead to a new treatment option for triple negative breast cancer, which can be difficult to treat. It is encouraging to see results which point towards the possibility of much needed targeted treatments for this type of breast cancer.
This research also helps to explain why certain existing immunotherapies may not currently be effective at treating some cancers. However, the study was carried out in mice and further research is needed to understand the full effect this new immunotherapy could have, and who may benefit most from it.
New treatments are urgently needed to stop more women dying from breast cancer. While this approach is not yet ready to be tested in humans, this is a hopeful step towards a potential targeted treatment for triple negative breast cancer, that could help more women live with and beyond breast cancer in the future.