October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time that is typically packed with runs, walks, and other events. While this year is different due to the coronavirus, stepping up to support and advance the science is as important as ever.

Breast cancer research is actively underway at the Weizmann Institute of Science, with researchers applying their formidable skills to improve understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of this still-too-common disease. Working in collaboration with oncologists and other medical professionals around the world, Institute scientists are continually making groundbreaking progress, demonstrating the role that curiosity-driven, interdisciplinary science plays in the battle against breast cancer. Just a few of the innovative projects taking place right now include:

  • Using bacteria to overcome treatment resistance. Dr. Ravid Straussman is developing methods to characterize and visualize the bacteria that live inside cancerous tumors. He and his team analyzed more than a thousand samples of human malignancies, including breast cancers, and determined that the presence of specific bacteria in tumors correlates with the tumors’ responsiveness – or lack thereof – to cancer therapy.

    Dr. Straussman’s research could reveal new bacteria-based biomarkers capable of helping doctors create personalized chemotherapy protocols for breast cancer and other malignancies based on a tumor’s bacterial profile.

  • New treatments for triple-negative breast cancer. Prof. Sima Lev focuses on intracellular membrane trafficking events – the movement of proteins and lipids within cells – and how they are dysregulated in cancer, especially triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). A highly aggressive subtype of breast cancer, TNBC primarily affects younger women and has no known cure.

    Prof. Lev is studying several proteins that play a role in TNBC, advancing therapeutic models, and improving our understanding of how various combinations of drugs can affect TNBC progression. This integrated research may help identify and develop new drugs and create new strategies for successfully treating this devastating form of breast cancer.

  • Overcoming drug resistance; fighting HER-2 breast cancer. Prof. Yosef Yarden and his team identified a previously unknown dynamic that promotes metastatic cell migration, a key characteristic of aggressive breast cancer. The scientists showed that a signaling process between two proteins promotes changes that, in turn, encourage cancer cells to metastasize. Interestingly, one of the proteins is known to be elevated in aggressive breast cancer subtypes – thus, the promising discovery may lead to new clinical strategies that “short circuit” this signaling and slow the spread of cancer.

    Prof. Yarden’s lab also identified a strategy for overcoming a significant problem in treating cancer: the fact that many patients later develop tumor regrowth and drug resistance, making the cancer extremely difficult to fight. The discovery, which was based on a mouse model of lung cancer, has important implications for improving breast cancer therapies.

    A type of enzyme – tyrosine kinase – occurs in pathologically high levels in some types of tumors. Cancer treatments use pharmaceutical compounds called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) to block the enzyme’s action, but unfortunately, some cancers develop resistance to TKIs. That’s why Prof. Yarden and his team sought to determine the most effective combination of already-approved drugs that might overcome TKI resistance, finding that three – cetuximab, trastuzumab, and osimertinib – provide effective, long-lasting treatment that prevents TKI resistance when administered together, thus thwarting tumor regrowth.

    One of the most exciting aspects of the study is that trastuzumab targets the HER2 receptor, the overexpression of which is characteristic of HER2-positive breast cancer, a particularly aggressive and hard-to-treat tumor type. This indicates that Prof. Yarden’s combined-drug approach may prove applicable to HER2-positive tumors, creating a new way to treat this challenging form of breast cancer.

Whether seeking the origins of breast cancer, targeting particular types, or creating new ways to treat and diagnose the disease, Weizmann Institute scientists are committed to improving breast-cancer outcomes. Please support these dedicated researchers during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – and every month.

Fighting Cancer

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

E-news, October 2020 • TAGS: Cancer , Cancer treatment , Women

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time that is typically packed with runs, walks, and other events. While this year is different due to the coronavirus, stepping up to support and advance the science is as important as ever.

Breast cancer research is actively underway at the Weizmann Institute of Science, with researchers applying their formidable skills to improve understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of this still-too-common disease. Working in collaboration with oncologists and other medical professionals around the world, Institute scientists are continually making groundbreaking progress, demonstrating the role that curiosity-driven, interdisciplinary science plays in the battle against breast cancer. Just a few of the innovative projects taking place right now include:

  • Using bacteria to overcome treatment resistance. Dr. Ravid Straussman is developing methods to characterize and visualize the bacteria that live inside cancerous tumors. He and his team analyzed more than a thousand samples of human malignancies, including breast cancers, and determined that the presence of specific bacteria in tumors correlates with the tumors’ responsiveness – or lack thereof – to cancer therapy.

    Dr. Straussman’s research could reveal new bacteria-based biomarkers capable of helping doctors create personalized chemotherapy protocols for breast cancer and other malignancies based on a tumor’s bacterial profile.

  • New treatments for triple-negative breast cancer. Prof. Sima Lev focuses on intracellular membrane trafficking events – the movement of proteins and lipids within cells – and how they are dysregulated in cancer, especially triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). A highly aggressive subtype of breast cancer, TNBC primarily affects younger women and has no known cure.

    Prof. Lev is studying several proteins that play a role in TNBC, advancing therapeutic models, and improving our understanding of how various combinations of drugs can affect TNBC progression. This integrated research may help identify and develop new drugs and create new strategies for successfully treating this devastating form of breast cancer.

  • Overcoming drug resistance; fighting HER-2 breast cancer. Prof. Yosef Yarden and his team identified a previously unknown dynamic that promotes metastatic cell migration, a key characteristic of aggressive breast cancer. The scientists showed that a signaling process between two proteins promotes changes that, in turn, encourage cancer cells to metastasize. Interestingly, one of the proteins is known to be elevated in aggressive breast cancer subtypes – thus, the promising discovery may lead to new clinical strategies that “short circuit” this signaling and slow the spread of cancer.

    Prof. Yarden’s lab also identified a strategy for overcoming a significant problem in treating cancer: the fact that many patients later develop tumor regrowth and drug resistance, making the cancer extremely difficult to fight. The discovery, which was based on a mouse model of lung cancer, has important implications for improving breast cancer therapies.

    A type of enzyme – tyrosine kinase – occurs in pathologically high levels in some types of tumors. Cancer treatments use pharmaceutical compounds called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) to block the enzyme’s action, but unfortunately, some cancers develop resistance to TKIs. That’s why Prof. Yarden and his team sought to determine the most effective combination of already-approved drugs that might overcome TKI resistance, finding that three – cetuximab, trastuzumab, and osimertinib – provide effective, long-lasting treatment that prevents TKI resistance when administered together, thus thwarting tumor regrowth.

    One of the most exciting aspects of the study is that trastuzumab targets the HER2 receptor, the overexpression of which is characteristic of HER2-positive breast cancer, a particularly aggressive and hard-to-treat tumor type. This indicates that Prof. Yarden’s combined-drug approach may prove applicable to HER2-positive tumors, creating a new way to treat this challenging form of breast cancer.

Whether seeking the origins of breast cancer, targeting particular types, or creating new ways to treat and diagnose the disease, Weizmann Institute scientists are committed to improving breast-cancer outcomes. Please support these dedicated researchers during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – and every month.