Australian researchers played a big part in a discovery that could lead to more effective treatment against “triple negative breast cancer”, a disease that usually requires much more aggressive treatment than other forms of breast cancer.

An international research team including Queensland Institute of Medical Research Professor Mark Smyth found that an enzyme called CD73 exists in triple negative cancers, and it blocks chemotherapy.  The more CD73, the poorer response to chemotherapy and worse survival in triple-negative breast cancer.

“We’ve discovered that CD73 - an enzyme that sits on the surface of cancer cells and produces the immune suppressive molecule, adenosine - is often present in high quantities in this subtype of breast cancer.  And when you block it, chemotherapy is much more successful,” Professor Smyth said.

Human trials of inhibitors of CD73 could begin within five years.

Breast cancer clinician researcher Sherene Loi from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne also was involved in the research, which was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Susan G. Komen Foundation of America.