02:29am Monday 21 October 2019

HER-2-Targeted T Cells May Have a Role in Ovarian Cancer Treatment, Penn Researchers Find

However, with more sensitive detection methods, Daniel J. Powell, Jr., PhD, a research assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and colleagues found that virtually all ovarian cancers express HER-2. The novel findings suggest that therapy targeting HER-2 may have a role in ovarian cancer treatment in the future, and may improve the outcome for women with ovarian cancer the way it has for women with HER-2 expressing breast cancer.

The team used three different assays to test for HER-2 expression in ovarian cancer cell lines and patient tumor samples. “What we found is that ovarian cancers ubiquitously express HER-2, and generally at higher levels than normal ovary tissue,” says Powell, whose group presented their findings Tuesday, April 20th at the American Association of Cancer Research meeting.

Although the results of previous clinical trials testing trastuzumab in women with advanced ovarian cancer have been lackluster, Powell thinks responses could be improved by using genetically engineered immune cells to deliver a toxic hit to tumor cells expressing HER-2. The modified T cells express an engineered protein – called a chimeric immune receptor — that combines a portion of an anti-HER-2 antibody with a portion of a killer T-cell receptor to stimulate cell-killing activity. “The chimeric immune receptor is not simply binding the HER-2 protein; it also uses the power of killer T cells coming in behind to further mediate the anti-tumor response,” Powell explains. “Also, the chimeric immune receptor that we are using is able to distinguish recognition of ovarian cancer from normal targets, despite the fact that the normal cells do express HER-2.”

The new results support testing of anti-HER-2 T-cell therapy in ovarian cancer, but Powell cautions that more research is needed to understand how to deliver the cells safely.


Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $3.6 billion enterprise. 

Penn’s School of Medicine is currently ranked #2 in U.S. News & World Report’s survey of research-oriented medical schools, and is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $367.2 million awarded in the 2008 fiscal year. 

Penn Medicine’s patient care facilities include:

Additional patient care facilities and services include Penn Medicine at Rittenhouse, a Philadelphia campus offering inpatient rehabilitation and outpatient care in many specialties; as well as a primary care provider network; a faculty practice plan; home care and hospice services; and several multispecialty outpatient facilities across the Philadelphia region.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2009, Penn Medicine provided $733.5 million to benefit our community.

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