Stay abreast, with therapy

breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and is a common cause of cancer-related death in women in India, writes Dr Meenu Walia
Last Updated : 21 October 2019, 19:30 IST
Last Updated : 21 October 2019, 19:30 IST

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According to GLOBOCAN 2018, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and is a common cause of cancer-related death in women in India. Mortality rates are influenced by the occurrence of the disease and the availability of screening programmes and appropriate treatment. Despite lower breast cancer incidence, breast cancer mortality rates are higher in many low income countries because of late diagnosis, suboptimal access to treatment, more aggressive biological subtypes, and younger age at diagnosis. Here are some of the newer therapies that have shown promise for treatment of advanced and metastatic breast cancer:

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapies target the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. When it comes to breast cancers, some subtypes have too much of a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2, pronounced her-too). This protein makes tumour cells grow. The Drug Trastuzumab is an example of targetted therapy and acts by disabling HER2 receptor on breast cancer cell.

Cancer vaccines

Cancer cells produce proteins and cells that are capable of eliciting an immune response. These cells are engineered into vaccines to elicit an immune response against tumour-specific or tumour-associated antigens. Thus, the immune system is enabled to attack cancer cells bearing these antigens.

Adoptive cell therapy

Adoptive cell therapy takes a patient’s own immune cells, modifies them, and then reintroduces them to the patient, where they can seek out and eliminate cancer cells. In CAR T cell therapy, T cells are modified and equipped with chimeric antigen receptors that enable superior anti-cancer activity.


Immunomodulators manipulate the so-called brakes and gas pedals of the immune system. The immune system is guarded by checkpoints to self-regulate itself. Checkpoint inhibitors modify the immune responses against cancer cells.

Oncolytic virus therapy

Viruses like adenovirus, herpes simplex virus, Maraba virus, etc are known to cause various diseases in human beings. These viruses can be modified and used to infect tumour cells and cause them to self-destruct.

(The author is director, medical oncology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Ghaziabad)

Published 21 October 2019, 19:30 IST

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