When it comes to breast cancer, the best offense is a good defense – early detection, quickly followed up by intensive treatment.
Lifestyle factors aside, there isn’t a whole lot individuals can do to prevent themselves from getting the disease if they have a genetic predisposition to it, like those with mutated BRCA-1 genes(1).
Some whose family histories have predisposed them to breast cancer opt for extensive preventative surgeries, sometimes having mastectomies and hysterectomies before even being diagnosed with the disease.
But invasive surgery isn’t an ideal means of disease prevention, to say the very least.
The prevalence of various types of cancers has led researchers on a hunt to come up with potential cancer vaccines – vaccines that will trigger the body’s immune system to attack tumour cells and prevent them from taking hold in our vulnerable tissues, blood, and organs.
Immunotherapy Drugs For Breast Cancer
These drugs are known as immunotherapy drugs. Recently, researchers have had some success in using them to treat skin cancer(2) and lung cancer(3). But now they believe they may have found an immunotherapy drug that can work for breast cancer as well.
The study, published this week in the journal Cell, focused on breast cancer tumour growth in mouse models(4).
Silicon microparticles loaded with an antigen known as HER2 were used to stimulate the immune system to recognize and “relentlessly attack” cancer cells responding to the HER2 antigen. The silicon microparticles prevented the antigen from premature destruction, allowing the process to be triggered correctly.
“We could completely inhibit tumour growth after just one dose of the cancer vaccine in the animal model,” said Haifa Shen, one of the lead scientists on the study. “This is the most amazing result we have ever seen in a tumour study.”(5)
Silicon Microparticles Are The Key
According to an article in Gizmag, the key to the vaccines success are the silicon particles that protect the antigen.
Not only do they prevent the antigen from breaking down too soon to be effective, they “kicked off a potent immune response at tumour sites, altering the environment in a way that allows cytotoxic T cells to better perform the cancer cell-killing duties.”(6)
The researchers also found that the silicon particles functioned this way whether or not they were loaded with the antigen.
Huge Potential For Cancer Treatment
The findings from this recent study could have major ramifications for global cancer research – even beyond the potential eventual development of a breast cancer vaccine.
The study is one of the first of its kind to demonstrate the versatility of silicon microparticles when it comes to cancer prevention.
“This is a technology platform that can be applied by other scientists to develop vaccines for other types of cancers, ultimately helping, we hope, more types of cancer patients,” said Shen.