New scan offers drug resistance detection aid

A new scan could help improve the treatment of breast cancer by helping to identify cases where the disease has gained sufficient resistance to a drug to stop responding to the medicine. 

Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, UK, have developed a scan that tracks molecules and spots a protein that indicates a cancer has become resistant to the drug being used on it. 

This will enable doctors to establish sooner if a treatment has stopped working and thus switch to an alternative drug more quickly than would hitherto have been the case. 

At present, drug resistance can only be tested by carrying out tests on tissue taken from tumours, but these are painful to collect for the patient, while the data gained from studying them does not always offer an accurate guide to drug resistance levels. 

The scan was developed in laboratories using mice, with the tracker highlighting tumours containing the HER3 protein. This is linked to resistance to the HSP90 inhibitors family of cancer drugs.

Published in Clinical Cancer Research, the paper showed how using the scan would be useful in tracking the effectiveness of HSP90 inhibitors in treating breast cancer and help with the development of personalised treatment plans. 

Lead author of the study Dr Gabriela Kramer-Marek said the scan is a "key player" in the task of establishing when drug resistance has developed. 

She added: "Our research shows PET scans of radio-tagged affibody molecules can measure changes in HER3 levels in breast cancer.

"We believe that HER3 PET imaging could be an important way to measure changes to HER3 resulting from resistance to targeted treatments, and become a valuable tool to deliver personalised treatments for patients with cancer.”

The research is not the only recent development in the study of breast cancer that could help treat the disease.

Teams from Baylor College of Medicine and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in the US recently discovered how the Warburg Pathway - a process by which cancer cells consume more glucose than normal cells that Nobel Laureate Otto Warburg discovered in the 1920s - actually works.ADNFCR-2094-ID-801846326-ADNFCR