UCSF Team Discovers New Way to Predict Breast Cancer Survival and Enhance Effectiveness of Treatment

By Jason Bardi, UCSF News Office | April 4, 2011

A team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has discovered a new way to predict breast cancer survival based on an "immune profile" -- the relative levels of three types of immune cells within a tumor. Knowing a patient's profile may one day help guide treatment.

Moreover, the UCSF team showed that they could use drugs to alter this immune profile in mice. Giving these drugs to mice, in combination with chemotherapy, significantly slowed tumor growth, blocked metastasis and helped mice live longer, suggesting that the approach may work in people.

According to UCSF Department of Pathology Professor Lisa Coussens, PhD, who led the research, a clinical trial for women with advanced breast cancer based on this discovery should begin enrolling patients at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and two collaborating institutions later this year.

"If our work translates into the clinic," said Coussens, "it may improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy in the treatment of certain cancers."

A research article describing this discovery appears in the inaugural issue of the journal Cancer Discovery today. Coussens also is presenting the results at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Orlando, FL this week.

Why Isn't The Body Immune To Cancer?
Breast cancer continues to be a major health problem in the United States, and the National Cancer Institute estimates more than 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease every year. It is the second leading cause of cancer death among American women, claiming more than 40,000 lives in 2009 alone.

Basic cancer research at UCSF, and elsewhere across the country, seeks to address this problem by asking fundamental questions about the disease. A few years ago, Coussens and her colleagues were doing just that, wondering: Why isn't the body more immune to cancer?


Read more at Jason Bardi, UCSF News Office