Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in France and is also the deadliest for women. Two out of ten women have a recurrence within ten years of breast cancer diagnosis. While Pink October, a breast cancer awareness and screening campaign, starts on Saturday 1 October and heads to the Institut Curie. Promising new techniques are being developed at Europe’s first breast cancer treatment centre.
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They have already revolutionized the treatment of blood cancer, CAR-T cells, tumor-killing cells, they are used in immunotherapy to strengthen the immune system of patients, it works very well for example in leukemia. At the Institut Curie, clinical trials have begun with the application of this technique to breast cancer. “We actually modify the patient’s immune cells to target cancer cells, we call it CAR-T cells.explains Alain Puisieux, director of research at the Curie Institute. And we’re going to try to optimize the survival, the efficiency of these CART-T cells to work against hematopoietic tumors in particular [un groupe de cancers qui proviennent des globules blancs]because essentially in this context they are used, but also in solid tumors, including breast cancer.’
Another revolutionary technique is being tested in the laboratory: this time it is an attack on the ability of cancer cells to adapt. One of the researchers from the Institut Curie discovered that tumor cells love iron, that they use it to resist treatment and become more aggressive, so he developed a molecule that blocks this process. “Iron is essential for life, especially for hemoglobin of course. For example, when you’re anemic.” [une baisse anormale du taux d’hémoglobine dans le sang] we give irondeciphers Manuel Rodriguez, a medical oncologist at the Curie Institute. Tumor cells know how to use this iron for resistance mechanisms, for survival mechanisms, just as tumor cells also know how to use sugar. It’s very important for us to understand how they use iron perversely, inappropriately, to affect the tumor cell at this level.”
After breast cancer, surveillance is necessary, so there is a completely new technique to detect recurrence: tumor DNA monitoring, a simple blood test can identify cancer cells, so at the moment we can only do this type of blood test in certain hospitals and cancer centers.