An upcoming GBI Research report has identified CD47 as a very important drug target in the future of breast cancer treatment.

Following the success of CAR-T immunotherapy in acute leukaemia, researchers are beginning to see the tangible benefits of improving the immune system’s ability to respond to tumours.

Why is CD47 important to cancer?

CD47 is a molecule that is expressed on the surface of cells to signal that they should not be consumed by the body’s phagocytes (immune cells that engulf and destroy anything that should not be there).

Under normal circumstances, CD47 protects our own healthy cells from phagocytes, but in cancer cells it is often expressed when it should not be, meaning that they can continue to divide, proliferate and invade the body.

What is even more worrying is that recent studies have shown that chemotherapy can increase the expression of CD47 in cancer cells, meaning that our main weapon against cancer can actually make cancer cells harder for our body to detect.

Pipeline drugs have shown efficacy

Fortunately, other studies have shown that blocking CD47 using specially designed antibodies can reduce the signaling of key growth factors that contribute to cancer spreading around the body.

Also, by blocking CD47, it is possible for the immune system to target not just tumour cells that are bunched together as solid tumours, but also ones floating around in the blood stream and inside tissues.

This has the potential to stop cancer coming back in different places after the main tumour has been removed.

CD47-targeted therapies have also been shown to be effective in other types of cancer, with a particular interest for applying the drugs in childhood brain cancers.

Our increased understanding of the immune system and the new technology for manipulating it have led to a new era in oncology, one in which these new drug targets and technologies could begin to vastly improve prognosis for patients.