Glasgow scientists working on breast cancer immunotherapy

Researchers from the University of Glasgow are continuing with vital breast cancer research, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A team led by Dr Seth Coffelt is investigating how the immune system may be used to stop breast cancer from spreading and becoming incurable.

The study focuses on how breast cancer tricks the immune system into helping it grow, with the goal that this could lead to the eventual development of new immunotherapy treatments.

It ultimately hopes that potential new immunotherapies can be created that retrain gamma delta T cells and the immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells in the body.

The three-year study has received funding from the charities Breast Cancer Now and Secondary 1st.

Dr Seth Coffelt, study lead, told the University: “Nature designed gamma delta T cells to be flexible. These cells normally sense problems and alert other immune cells to danger; but breast tumours take advantage of this natural flexibility to support the spread of cancer.

“We know that breast cancer cells can communicate with gamma delta T cells and change their behaviour so that the immune system doesn’t react to cancer – understanding how cancer cells do this could open up new treatment options.

“We are very excited to receive this funding to study the interaction between breast tumours and gamma delta T cells as, if we understand this, our hope is that we can develop an immunotherapy that helps the immune system to recognise and get rid of cancer.”

Dr Kotryna Temcinaite, Research Communications Manager at Breast Cancer Now, added: “Together with Secondary1st we are delighted to be funding this important and much-needed study into understanding how breast cancer tricks the immune system into helping it grow and spread.

“The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on research across the country, but it is vital that we continue to do everything we can to support researchers to continue their vital work.”

Breast Cancer Now estimates that around 8,600 women may have been living with undetected breast cancer due to disruption from the pandemic, making research and development of treatments more important than ever.

Find out more about this study via the University of Glasgow.