A team of scientists at the IU School of Medicine recently discovered a new treatment for triple negative breast cancer. The team’s study, published in Science Translational Medicine, began in 2017 and concluded in February 2021.
Dr. Xiongbin Lu, a Vera Bradley Foundation Professor of Breast Cancer Innovation and a professor in the IU School of Medicine, is the lead author of the study.
The team essentially identified a new immunotherapy for triple negative breast cancer, Lu said.
Triple negative breast cancer is a less common type of breast cancer where there aren’t any cell receptors found in the cancer cells. This makes it much harder to treat with traditional forms of chemotherapy, Lu said.
Lu and his team combined alpha-amanitin — a peptide generally found in toxic mushrooms — with another cancer drug — trastuzumab — to create their treatment. The new drug created in the study is called T-Ama.
IU research member Dr. Yujing Li, a co-author of the study, contributed to the creation of this new drug.
“I think everything has been very interesting,” Li said. “With our new discoveries we found within this study, we hope we can be put to clinical trial and then benefit more patients. That's our goal.”
Triple negative breast cancer is one of the least common forms of breast cancer and is hard to treat because the cancer cells can sometimes resist chemotherapy treatments. This means that the tumors can continue to grow even as the patient goes through immunotherapy.
IU Ph.D candidate Yifan Sun is another co-author of the study. He said this new treatment could be a revolutionary solution for treating patients with triple negative breast cancer.
“Our most exciting discovery is that the T-Ama indicated that you won’t be more resistant to current immunotherapies, while also treating the tumor cells,” Sun said.
Lu said this drug is ready for clinical trials, where the drug will be tested further to see if it is safe and effective. Lu said the next step would also be to commercialize the drug, which would mean introducing the treatment to medical professionals.
Lu, Li and Sun said they are optimistic and want to see the new drug successfully pass clinical trials. They said they hope it can serve as a treatment for people with triple negative breast cancer because patients currently do not have many effective options available to them.