Developing a Trojan Horse to attack aggressive breast cancer

Tuesday 26 October 2021

The battle to prevent breast cancer deaths in Australia has been gaining ground, but about 1 in 10 patients still loses the fight.

Mater Researcher Thomas Kryza from the Cancer Cell Biology Research group is working to change how the battle is waged – developing a new biological agent that can be used to detect and treat aggressive forms of the disease.

“Our team is evaluating if we can use a biological agent, derived from an antibody, to carry imaging tracers or cancer-fighting drugs to breast cancer cells in the body,” Dr Kryza said.

“Those kinds of agents called 10D7 are designed to work as Trojan Horses specifically targeting breast cancer cells, so patients will have better outcomes and fewer toxic side effects.”

The agent works by binding to the surface of breast cancer cells through the cellular receptor called CDCP1. This receptor is elevated in about 75 per cent of breast cancers including metastatic and therapy-resistant tumours, but not produced by other cells in the human body.

The 10D7 agent was first identified by Cancer Cell Biology Research group leader Professor John Hooper who has been researching its use in treating ovarian cancer, with a clinical trial already underway for that strain.

The team found it could be used as a vehicle to send targeted imaging tracers to cancer cells so they could be detected through PET scans, and then also used to deliver targeted cancer treatment to the identified tumours.

Dr Kryza said this kind of precision medicine should lead to even better patient survival rates.

“Our project has the potential to revolutionise the clinical management of breast cancer by improving both detection and treatment to significantly improve the quality of life and survival of breast cancer patients,” he said.

“Because this agent is already in clinical testing for ovarian cancer, if the research team can demonstrate it is also applicable to breast cancer, it will hopefully also be available to patients faster.”

Cancer Australia estimates breast cancer will be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2021, with more than 20,000 new cases detected this year.

While 92 per cent of breast cancer patients now survive for five years or more, it is estimated 3,138 people will die from the disease this year– accounting for six per cent of all cancer deaths in Australia.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Find out more: