Cancers are able to fool the immune system into thinking its cells are just like any other normal cell, allowing it to grow unchallenged. Cancer immunotherapy describes the numerous ways the immune system can be trained to recognise cancer cells as abnormal.
In the past, doctors used to treat patients according to where the cancer is located. This meant that breast cancer was treated with one type of chemotherapy, while blood cancer was treated with another type. Today, the advances we have made in genetics mean that we are able to determine the genes and biomarkers that drive development of cancer. This opens up avenues for new treatments and therapies that previously would not have been prescribed for that particular cancer.
Unfortunately, genome sequencing analysis of breast cancer in Asians has been limited in the past, mainly due to its high cost and lack of quality tumour samples. However, we now possess better, faster, and cheaper DNA sequencing technologies, and together with Sime Darby Medical Centre, we have assembled one of the largest cohorts of breast cancer tissue samples from Asia, and are collaborating with Professor Carlos Caldas and Dr. Chin Suet-Feung at the University of Cambridge to comprehensively analyse these samples. This work will lead to a better understanding of biomarkers in Asian breast cancers, and may pave the way for breast cancer immunotherapy.
This study is funded by the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign by the Estée Lauder Companies, and made possible with the support of the Newton Ungku Omar Grant, University Malaya, and Sime Darby Medical Centre. Together, we are working towards ensuring that Asians are not left behind in the search for more effective breast cancer treatments.