Doctoral defence: Anni Lepland “Precision targeting of tumour-associated macrophages in triple negative breast cancer”

On 8 June at 12:00 Anni Lepland will defend her doctoral thesis “Precision targeting of tumour-associated macrophages in triple negative breast cancer”.

Professor Tambet Teesalu, University of Tartu
Visiting Research Fellow Pablo David Scodeller, University of Tartu

Associate Professor Maija Hollmen, University of Turku (Finland)

Breast cancer affects ~2.3 million people world-wide, leading to almost 700 000 deaths each year. In Estonia, on average 16 people are getting a breast cancer diagnosis every week and 5 people die because of it. Breast cancers are very heterogenous and are divided into different subtypes. Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive subtype comprising up to 20% of all cases. It usually affects women under 50 years old who do not attend routine mammography; therefore, the tumour is often at a late stage at the time of diagnosis. Triple negative means that it is negative for oestrogen and progesterone receptors and to human epidermal growth factor 2. This results in fewer treatment options than with other breast cancer subtypes, leaving many patients without any good options. Moreover, chemotherapy drugs on their own are not specific, meaning they will affect whole body during cancer treatments. In TNBC, macrophages from the body’s own immune system are converted by tumour into special type of macrophages called pro-tumoural macrophages that help tumours to grow, metastasise and to escape the attack from body’s normal line of defense, T lymphocytes. Here, we eliminated those pro-tumoural macrophages or converted them into anti-tumoural macrophages and studied the effect on tumour progression and the activation of a positive immune response. For that we designed and developed new compounds to precisely guide drugs to pro-tumoural macrophages by coupling the drugs to a guiding peptide. Our peptide-guided therapies led to therapeutic effect, activation of the immune system and were safer and more effective than conventional chemotherapy. For the future we envisage the use of our peptide-guided compounds in combination with other treatments to treat this clinically difficult to manage disease.

Defence can be also followed in MS Teams.