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New clinical trial approved for breast cancer-related brain metastases

OAKLAND, CA (US), July 2019 – A new clinical trial under way that is testing a therapy to treat brain metastases from breast cancers expressing high levels of a protein called HER2.  Brain metastases are tumors in the brain that have spread from the original site of the breast cancer — the second-most common cancer in women, both in the United States and worldwide. 

Some types of breast cancer have a high likelihood of metastasizing to the brain.  When that happens, there are few treatment options, leading to a poor prognosis and poor quality of life. The clinical trial, funded by a $9.28 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), is being conducted by Saul Priceman, Ph.D., in City of Hope’s Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation. The therapy consists of a genetically modified version of the patient’s own T cells, which are an immune system cell that can destroy foreign or abnormal cells.  The T cells are modified with a protein called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that recognizes the tumor protein HER2. 

These modified T cells (CAR-T cells) are then infused into the patient’s brain where they are expected to detect and destroy the HER2-expressing tumors in the brain.

“When a patient is told that their cancer has metastasized to other areas of the body, it can be devastating news,” says Maria T. Millan, M.D., president and CEO of CIRM.  “There are few options for patients with breast cancer brain metastases.  Standard of care treatments, which include brain irradiation and chemotherapy, have associated neurotoxicity and do little to improve survival, which is typically no more than a few months. 

“CAR-T cell therapy is an exciting and promising approach that now offers us a more targeted approach to address this condition.”

Learn more:
www.cirm.ca.gov