Researchers working with Dr Marcus Schmidt in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University Medical Center Mainz have unlocked the key to the immune system's significance in cases of breast cancer, thus identifying its long-neglected role in the prognosis of the disease.
Their research results, published in the renowned Cancer Research journal, show that patients with certain breast tumors have a better prognosis when more immune cells are present in the tumor. These results permitted the scientists to extend the "coordinate system" in case of breast tumors to include the immune system as the third important reference point for the prognosis of this disease, in addition to the long-established prognostic factors of estrogen receptor expression and proliferative activity (Cancer Research, 1 July 2008; Cancer Research, 1 April 2009).
In the past, physicians searched intensively for criteria and factors permitting a reliable conclusion on the prognosis for node-negative breast cancer, that is, where the axillary lymph nodes show no tumour invasion. Two factors were established during numerous studies: estrogen receptor expression and proliferative activity, i.e., the rate of tumor cell division. The more estrogen receptors were detected in a patient, the better the prognosis was. The more proliferative activity there was, i.e., the faster the cells divided, the poorer the prognosis. Whether the prognosis is good or poor depends on the instance of early distance metastases in the liver, lungs, and bones in the first five years.
"However, the system of the two coordinates 'estrogen receptor expression' and 'proliferative activity' was not sufficiently reliable in the prognosis of all tumors," explained Dr Marcus Schmidt, senior physician at the Department for Obstetrics and Gynecology in the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. "Particularly puzzling was a group of tumors that did not generate any early metastases, despite a high rate of proliferation and low estrogen receptor levels - currently considered to be the criteria for a poor prognosis. This could not be explained with the knowledge at hand. Applying a third criterion - the immune system - we can now round out this somewhat incomplete picture of the prognosis for breast cancer to achieve a more conclusive one."
The scientists tracked the immune system using gene expression analysis. With this analysis, a large number of genes can be identified and characterized with respect to their activity in the tumor tissue. "Using this method, we can examine the development of more than 14,500 genes - i.e., their expression," explained Marcus Schmidt. "During these studies on the tissue of 200 patients, we came across a group of genes with which we were able to explain the currently inexplicably good prognosis in the case of a certain group of rapidly dividing tumors. Primarily, we were able to attribute these genes to immune system cells - B cells and T cells. The more of these immune cell transcripts were present, the better the prognosis was - particularly with tumors in which a poor prognosis was expected because of the high rate of proliferation."
To validate and confirm their findings, the researchers of Mainz University examined the data of two other patient groups whose gene expression data had been published and is therefore accessible. The results in both cases were the same as with the Mainz patient group. With this additional data, they had access to the tissue samples of a total of 788 patients. "For us, this confirms that the immune system plays a fundamental role in breast cancer prognosis, and its importance is comparable to that of the tumor cell division rate," explained Marcus Schmidt. "Our research work should consequently draw attention to the long-neglected role of the immune system in breast cancer, expanding on and complementing the currently known factors of estrogen receptor expression and proliferative activity."
In Marcus Schmidt's view, however, the significance of these findings goes beyond improved characterization and prognostic assessment in the case of node-negative breast tumors. For example, the observed protective effect of immune cells, which occur naturally in the tumor in any event, presents a clear case for using the favorable role of the immune system in breast cancer prognosis as additional therapy with inoculation strategies.Marcus Schmidt, Daniel Böhm, Christian von Törne, Eric Steiner, Alexander Puhl, Henryk Pilch, Hans-Anton Lehr, Jan G. Hengstler, Heinz Kölbl and Mathias Gehrmann
Petra Giegerich | idw
Investigators may unlock mystery of how staph cells dodge the body's immune system
22.09.2017 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Monitoring the heart's mitochondria to predict cardiac arrest?
21.09.2017 | Boston Children's Hospital
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy