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Breast cancer research published

breastcancercell224x135Breast researchers in the Division of Cancer Studies working on the cancer-associated protein called MUC1 have identified its associated sugar types that contribute to stopping the immune cells from attacking the tumour.

All proteins expressed on the cell surface have sugars attached to them. In breast cancer the types of sugars attached to proteins are different compared to those seen on the same protein expressed by normal cells. King's researchers have shown that it is the change in sugars on a particular cancer-associated protein called MUC1 that allows it to bind to a specific receptor on two types of immune cell. This binding causes the immune cells to release factors associated with tumour progression, and to increase the expression of proteins known to stop other immune cells from attacking the tumour.

Further research is required to develop novel therapies that can inhibit the cancer cells modulating the immune environment. The researchers have already shown that we are able to block these effects with some agents. 

The use of antibodies is now common in cancer therapy and antibodies to the receptor on the immune cells that binds MUC1 is a potential new therapy for breast cancer patients and now needs to be tested in pre-clinical models. This could be combined with the checkpoint blockers that release the brakes put on the immune system and that are in use for the therapy of other cancer types 

The research is published in this September’s Nature Immunology journal.

Research staff involved: