Advanced Breast Cancer: Alpha-TEA Strikes Down?


SEATTLE, Wash. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. One in four of those breast cancer diagnosis will be HER-2-positive. It’s an aggressive form of breast cancer and is more likely to recur than HER2-negative breast cancer. Now a new trial is underway to stop this advanced breast cancer in its tracks.

More than 300,000 women will hear the words, “you have breast cancer” this year alone. About a quarter of those women will learn that their breast cancer is HER2 positive, producing a protein that drives the growth and spread of cancer.

“The patients with HER2 driven or positive breast cancer, they actually start losing these T-cells and so they lose that immunologic response,” explained William Gwin, MD, an assistant professor at University of Washington School of Medicine and breast cancer specialist at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

(Read Full Interview)

But now a phase one clinical trial is underway with advanced HER2 positive breast cancer patients for the oral therapy alpha-TEA in combination with the antibody drug Herceptin. Alpha-TEA works by activating T-cells.

“We can boost those and drive those T-cells that target HER2 and sort of restore that immune response against HER2,” elaborated Dr. Gwin.

Attacking cancer cells but leaving the normal cells alone.

“It does seem to have similar effects to chemotherapy, but really without the side effects,” Dr. Gwin shared.

The trial is ongoing. Dr. Gwin says the trial is focusing on patients who have been unresponsive to standard treatments. If you want to learn more or take part in the trial, contact UW Medicine Cancer Vaccine Institute in Seattle at 1-866-932-8588 or

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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HER2-POSITIVE BREAST CANCER: HER2-positive breast cancer tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) which is a protein that promotes the growth of cancer cells. In 1 of every 5 breast cancers, the cells have extra copies of the gene that makes the HER2 protein. HER2-positive breast cancers tend to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer. A biopsy sample of the cancer is usually tested with either immunohistochemical stains (IHC) or fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH). The IHC test is usually done first because the FISH test takes a long time to get the results and is more expensive.


HER2-POSITIVE BREAST CANCER TREATMENT: There are treatments available specifically for HER2-positive breast cancer. They are Enhertu (chemical name: fam-trastuzumab-deruxtecan-nxki) which is a combination of an anti-HER2 medicine that has the same basic structure as Herceptin, the chemotherapy medicine topoisomerase I inhibitor, and deruxtecan, a compound that links the other two together. Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab), which blocks the ability of the HER2 positive breast cancer cells to receive chemical signals that tell the cells to grow. Kadcyla (chemical name: T-DM1 or ado-trastuzumab emtansine) was designed to deliver emtansine to cancer cells in a targeted way by attaching emtansine to Herceptin. Nerlynx (chemical name: neratinib), fights HER2-positive breast cancers by blocking the cancer cells’ ability to receive growth signals. Perjeta (chemical name: pertuzumab) also works against HER2-positive breast cancers by blocking the cancer cells’ ability to receive growth signals and Tykerb (chemical name: lapatinib), which works against HER2-positive breast cancers by blocking certain proteins that cause uncontrolled cell growth.


NEW HER2-POSITIVE BREAST CANCER CLINCAL TRIAL: There is a new breast cancer therapy candidate that is evaluating a combination of alpha-TEA and trastuzumab in the treatment of advanced HER2-positive breast cancer. Alpha-TEA reduces cancer growth by stimulating the body’s immune response against the tumor. Trastuzumab is a targeted therapy that attaches to HER2 receptors on the surface of cancer cells. This blocks the signals that tell the cells to grow and might tag the cell for the body’s immune system to get rid of it. The hope is that adding alpha-TEA to trastuzumab therapy will work better against HER2-Positive breast cancer than trastuzumab alone in cases that have become resistant to traditional treatment. The leader of the clinical study at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Doctor William Gwin says this, “is not an I.V. medicine but a pill that they would take at home. The interesting thing is it does seem to have similar effects to chemotherapy, but without the side effects. So folks may have had a lot of chemotherapy in the past with a lot of side effects and we hope this provides a new avenue of therapy that provides an anti-cancer effect and anti-cancer immune response, without the long term side effects that we see with a lot of our standard agents.”

(Sources:, Interview with William Gwin, MD.)




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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for William Gwin, MD, Assistant Professor

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