The Institut Curie tackles breast cancer recurrences

Breast cancer affects almost 60,000 women each year in France. Ten years after diagnosis, 15% to 25% of these tumors recur, locally or through metastasis. Researchers at the Institut Curie are studying new ways to prevent these relapses.

On the occasion of Pink October, the month of national mobilization against breast cancer, the Institut Curie reviews the risk of relapse of breast cancer, its causes and new clinical trials. It also presents new ambitions: to create a structure dedicated to women’s cancers, both breast and gynecological tumors (cervix, ovaries, etc.).

Recidivism, why and how to deal with it?

The recurrence of cancers is explained through three successive phases. First, some cells resist treatment: they are called “persistent” cells. They then go into “dormancy”. It is this step that remains the most mysterious to researchers. This phenomenon is related to both the intrinsic properties of cancer cells and their environment, in which signals abound. Therefore, the challenge of current studies is to understand why and how persistent cells are awakened. Then they enter the expansion phase: after receiving chemical signals, certain cancer cells proliferate again.

Different lines of research stand out. The first aims to understand why certain cells resist treatment. “You have to make the correct diagnosis to know if certain cells may be persistent,” explains Paul Cottu, medical oncologist at the Institut Curie. In particular, we know that iron can cause resistance to treatment. A second targets surrounding cells (macrophages, lymphocytes, dendritic cells, etc.), since the dialogue between normal and cancerous cells is indeed essential for the tumor. Finally, the proliferation of these cells requires a certain “plasticity” of them. A capacity that is also at the center of several studies.

The importance of clinical trials

My doctor suggested that I enter a clinical trial to prevent relapse, that is, the appearance of […]

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