the torch Fall 2016, Issue 3 - Page 16

Baylor Institute for Immunology research seeks to develop vaccine to target triple negative breast cancer

Dr . Botond Igyarto
Even though detection rates and therapies for breast cancer have improved in recent decades , the disease is still the most frequently diagnosed and the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women . In 2016 , it is estimated that nearly 250,000 new cases will be diagnosed .
Triple negative breast cancer ( TNBC ) is an aggressive form of the disease that frequently metastasizes . The options for treatment are limited and a patient ’ s survival following diagnosis is typically a year or less .
This emphasizes the urgent need for effective treatments for patients fighting this form of breast cancer . In the Celebrating Women Breast Cancer Research Lab , novel immunotherapies are being developed to treat these aggressive tumors . These therapies use a patient ’ s own immune system to fight cancer cells and are emerging as a powerful alternative to standard chemotherapy and radiation therapy .
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Many of these new promising therapies rely on dendritic cells , an important component of the human immune system that orchestrates our body ’ s defense against illness . In the past 20 years , the study of dendritic cells has exploded , and vaccines using dendritic cells are thought to be viable treatments for many diseases , from HIV to cancer . Scientists around the world now dedicate their lives to the study of dendritic cell vaccines , including Botond Igyarto , Ph . D ., lead scientist at the Celebrating Women Breast Cancer Research Lab .
Since dendritic cells are master coordinators of all immune responses ,
Dr . Igyarto ’ s work focuses on developing injectable breast cancer vaccines that target these cells .
“ Dendritic cells come in different subsets , and there is a division of labor between the types . Some are specialized to fight bacterial infections , others viral or fungal pathogens ,” said Dr . Igyarto . “ Based on this knowledge , we are testing the hypothesis that targeting vaccines to a specific subset of dendritic cell will promote superior cancer-fighting results .”
This dendritic cell-targeting is designed to activate the patient ’ s immune system against the cancer via injection of a vaccine . The therapeutic