February 26, 2024

Scientists Discover “Crown-Like Structures” Surrounding Breast Tumors Could Hinder Cancer Therapy

In patients with a high BMI, increased body fat surrounding the breast can cause inflammatory immune cells, called macrophages, to collect in the breasts fat tissue. This creates an inflammatory environment in the breast which can lead to the onset and development of tumors.
” On the other hand, this study highlights how effective trastuzumab treatment is in clients that do not have the marker. These clients could benefit from a lower dose of anti-HER2 therapy which may minimize the side results they experience. Further research studies with more patients will be needed to assist confirm these initial findings.”

The position of the crown like structure in the human anatomy. Credit: University of Southampton
A brand-new research study from the University of Southampton has found that crown-like structures surrounding breast growths in obese and obese patients could impede their action to therapy.
These brand-new findings could potentially be utilized to improve customized treatment for clients with HER2 positive overexpressed breast cancer.
Adipose tissue, or body fat, is an important component of the healthy human breast and yet high body mass index (BMI) is related to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Obese patients with breast cancer also have even worse survival rates than patients with healthy body weight.

In patients with a high BMI, increased body fat surrounding the breast can trigger inflammatory immune cells, called macrophages, to collect in the breasts fat tissue. These macrophages can then form what are called crown-like structures by surrounding these fat cells (see picture below). This produces an inflammatory environment in the breast which can cause the onset and development of growths.
How these crown-like structures go on to impact breast cancer development and react to therapy is mainly unidentified.
Inflammatory macrophages collect in crown like structure around breast tissue. Credit: University of Southampton
The research study team, led by Professors Stephen Beers, Ramsey Cutress, and Dr. Charles Birts, evaluated samples from a group of HER2+ breast cancer clients to investigate the link between high BMI and the development of crown-like structures, and the subsequent effect of these on how clients responded to therapy with a drug called trastuzumab (Herceptin).
The results, released in the journal Scientific Reports, revealed that clients that were overweight or overweight had substantially more crown-like structures in their fat tissue surrounding the tumor, and that this was associated with a faster time to metastatic disease, an indicator of how well the patients have responded to therapy.
They then went on to recognize a possible molecular biomarker, called CD32B, on the surface of the macrophages in these crown-like structures. When this marker was present in overweight and overweight patients, their response to trastuzumab treatment was poorer.
Herceptin (trastuzumab) is used to treat breast cancer patients. Credit: University of Southampton
Stephen Beers, Professor of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the University of Southampton said, “These findings will be of interest to researchers and clinicians associated with breast cancer treatment as they might potentially be utilized to establish individualized treatment in patients with HER2 favorable overexpressed breast cancer.
” For example, doctors would understand that clients with a high BMI and the marker on their crown-like structures are likely to have a poor reaction to trastuzumab therapy. They might therefore benefit from more intensive anti-HER2 therapy earlier in their treatment.
” On the other hand, this study highlights how effective trastuzumab treatment is in patients that do not have the marker. These patients could benefit from a lower dose of anti-HER2 treatment which may lessen the side impacts they experience. Additional research studies with more patients will be required to assist confirm these initial findings.”
The research team is now taking a look at ways to change the behavior of these crown-like structures to enhance responses to breast cancer therapy.
Referral: “Prognostic significance of crown-like structures to trastuzumab reaction in patients with main invasive HER2+ breast cancer” 24 May 2022, Scientific Reports.DOI: 10.1038/ s41598-022-11696-6.
This research study has been published in the peer evaluated journal Scientific Reports. The research study team was funded by Against Breast Cancer, Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Now and World Cancer Research Fund UK.