20 Jul Small Subset of Cells May Make HER2+ Breast Cancer Resistant To Treatment
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Niels de Jonge, Ph.D
Head of the Innovative Electron Microscopy group
German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg
University of Freiburg
Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: HER2 membrane proteins play a special role in certain types of breast cancer: amplified levels of HER2 drive unrestricted cell growth. HER2-tailored antibody-based therapeutics aim to prevent cancer cell growth. However, two-thirds of HER2 positive breast cancer patients develop resistance against HER2-targeting drugs. The reason for this is not yet understood. We now found out, that HER2 dimers appeared to be absent from a small sub-population of resting SKBR3 breast cancer cells. This small subpopulation may have self-renewing properties that are resistant to HER2-antibody therapy and thus able to seed new tumor growth.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: With our new analytical capabilities to study the functional state of HER2 at he sub-cellular level, we provide a novel approach to study the functioning of HER2 proteins and obtained data not discovered before with existing methods. Possibly, research on the effect of HER2-targeting drugs using this new method, will lead to a better understanding of the causes of drug resistance. The effect of medication can now be examined in a new way, which may possible result in a better therapy with less drug resistance against breast cancer.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: We aim to study the effect of HER2-targeting drugs on breast cancer cells, and in particular plan to examine small sub-populations of cells, for example, cancer stem cells. As found in our published study, small sub-populations of cells exist with a different behavior of HER2. An exciting question is thus if small sub-populations also exhibit a different response to these drugs.
B. Peckys, U. Korf, N. de Jonge. Local variations of HER2 dimerization in breast cancer cells discovered by correlative fluorescence and liquid electron microscopy. Science Advances, 2015; 1 (6): e1500165 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500165
Niels de Jonge, Ph.D (2015). Small Subset of Cells Make HER2+ Breast Cancer Resistant To Treatment