A step closer to earlier breast cancer treatment


Belgian researchers have discovered a technique that detects the effectiveness of breast cancer treatment more quickly using immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy is showing increasing promise in the fight against various forms of cancer. But for breast cancer, this type of treatment is only currently considered if metastases have been detected. Moreover, it can only be given to one in three patients.

To be more certain more quickly that an immunotherapy treatment has every chance of leading to a cure, researchers at the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology (VIB), the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) and its university hospital (UZ Leuven) have made a discovery that has been described as "revolutionary".

According to the study the Leuven researchers published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, it is now possible to study individual tumour cells in high resolution. This new technique, known as "single cell", goes beyond the general and not very precise picture of the different types of cells that make up the tumour, as observed with older techniques. This allows for the detection of biomarkers that provide an early indication of whether or not immunotherapy will work in a patient.

For breast cancer surgeon Ann Smets, "This is a big step towards offering this treatment to early-stage breast cancer patients in the future."

The results of this study still need to be validated to turn the hopes raised by immunotherapy into even more concrete results.