Boston, MA. Minerva Biotechnologies, a leading cancer and stem cell development company, today announced a major breakthrough in the treatment of cancers. In an article published this month in the Journal of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, “MUC1* is a Determinant of Trastuzumab (Herceptin) Resistance in Breast Cancer Cells”, Minerva researchers reported that tumor cells that had grown resistant to anti-cancer drugs do so by over-expressing a growth factor receptor that they named MUC1*. Researchers reversed the drug resistance by treating the cancer cells with the original drug plus one of Minerva’s proprietary MUC1* inhibitors. The therapeutic effect of several anti-cancer drugs, including Genentech’s blockbuster drug Herceptin, was restored when the drugs were co-administered with a MUC1* antagonist.
Acquired drug resistance is a major problem for cancer therapy. In the United States, 211,000 women are diagnosed each year with breast cancer. About 20% of those women overexpress a specific growth factor receptor that Herceptin targets and thus are eligible for treatment with that drug. Women treated with Herceptin are three-times more likely to survive for at least five years and two-times more likely to survive without a cancer recurrence. Unfortunately, up to 25% of the patients who begin Herceptin treatment become resistant to the drug within the first year. The results of Minerva’s study imply that Herceptin resistance could be prevented or reversed by treating patients with a combination therapy that includes a MUC1*-targeting drug. In addition to Herceptin, the study showed that MUC1* inhibitors reversed acquired resistance to other chemotherapy drugs including Taxol, Doxorubicin and Cylcophosphamide.