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Killing Cancer Stem Cells May Lead To Better Outcomes

The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and two other sites will take part in a clinical trial aimed at improving the outcomes from chemotherapy treatments of aggressive breast cancer.

The Michigan clinic will test a drug that targets cancer stem cells. The drug, reparixin, will be used in combination with standard chemotherapy. Researchers believe that killing these stem cells, that fuel a tumor's growth, could be key to improving the outcomes for women with HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer.

“This is one of only a few trials testing stem cell directed therapies in combination with chemotherapy in breast cancer. Combining chemotherapy with stem cell therapy has the potential to lengthen remissions for women with advanced breast cancer,” said principal investigator Anne Schott, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan.

Cancer stem cells are the small number of cells within a tumor that fuel its growth and spread.

The reparixin will be taken orally by patients also receiving  the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel. The study is primarily intended to test how patients tolerate this drug combination, but researchers also will track at how reparixin appears to be impacting markers for cancer stem cells and signs of inflammation. The study also focuses on how effective this treatment combination is at controlling the cancer and impacting survival.

The clinical trial stems from laboratory research at U-M previously identified a receptor called CXCR1 on the cancer stem cells that triggers growth of stem cells in response to inflammation and tissue damage. Adding reparixin to chemotherapy in laboratory studies specifically targeted and killed breast cancer stem cells by blocking CXCR1.

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