Targeting breast cancer

Imagine a future where no one is suffering from breast cancer.

Thanks to a five-year research partnership between the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation (NZBCF) and Victoria ’s Ferrier Research Institute, this could one day be a reality.

The Foundation is giving Ferrier scientists $500,000 to develop a breast cancer vaccine, following a significant breakthrough by chemists at Ferrier in the area of cancer immunotherapy.

Evangelia Henderson, chief executive of NZBCF says, “We went looking for a research partner that would give us the best shot of moving toward our vision of zero deaths from breast cancer. We were blown away by the calibre of the Ferrier team, the work it had already done in the exciting field of immunotherapy and vaccines, and the strength of its international partnerships. It was a no-brainer for us.”

Immunotherapy focuses on targeting the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells, rather than introducing toxic agents to attack tumours directly. The treatment is well tolerated by the body, has fewer side effects than chemotherapy treatments and may be more effective in the long term, prompting the leading journal Scienceto describe it as the “breakthrough of the year” in 2013.

Ferrier staff are developing a synthetic cancer vaccine technology that produces a targeted immune response. Ferrier Institute director Professor Richard Furneaux says the technology is almost there.

“We just need to get it to the stage where it is ready for the next level of testing—human clinical trials”.