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Fighting: Cures that Kill


PUBLISHED: June 18, 2014

Tanye Kizilltepe
Tanyel Kiziltepe

Tanyel Kiziltepe, research assistant professor in the Advanced Diagnostics and Therapeutics (AD&T) initiative at the University of Notre Dame, and Basar Bilgicer, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, are working to address one of the side effects of Trastuzumab, an antibiody used in breast cancer treatment.

Also known as Herceptin®, Trastuzumab, targets and kills the HER2 (Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2) positive cells found in one of every three breast cancer patients. When used in conjunction with chemotherapy, it has been shown to reduce cancer recurrence up to 50 percent. However, Trastuzumab can also lead to congestive heart failure because the receptor molecules in breast cancer cells that attract the Trastuzumab (so that it can attach to the cancer cells and kill them) are the same molecules located around heart tissue.

The Notre Dame team is working to improve the selectivity of Trastuzumab, so that when it is in the body it can better identify HER2 cancer cells as opposed to healthy ones that have the same receptors, so that the antibiody can become safer and more effective. Their initial results will be tested first in vitro and then in animal studies.