October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Peptide-based Therapeutics for Treating Breast Cancer

In October 1985, the American Cancer Society began Breast Cancer Awareness Month to bring attention to the disease. Affecting more than 2.3 million women worldwide and 1 in 8 American women, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.  Although they develop it in smaller numbers, men are not immune from this disease. Early detection can improve prognosis, as cancers are more easily treatable in the early stages.1,2

In most breast cancers, cancer cells contain receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and HER2, enabling the hormones to fuel their growth. These receptors can be targeted by therapies. On the other hand, in triple negative breast cancer, cancer cells do not contain these receptors and, therefore, is much harder to treat.

In terms of treatment, there are several strategies that can be employed such as targeted therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, hormone therapy, and a combination of any of these methods. There are several peptide-based therapeutics in clinical development for treating breast cancer.

Some of the roles that peptides may have in treating breast cancer include:

  • as cancer vaccines, for example, as an antigen to stimulate the production of antibodies that block tumor production pathways
  • in targeting the cancer cells: peptides often can be tailored to target the protein receptors overexpressed in cancer cells
  • as an anticancer drug vector, for example in nucleic acid therapy, in protecting nucleic acids and targeting tumor cells using cell-penetrating peptides
  • as anticancer drugs playing roles such as cancer cell-membrane disruption or transcription factor suppression
  • to target the pathways cancer cells use to set up vasculature or to trigger cancer cell apoptosis

As of 2021, there were 44 therapeutic cancer vaccines in clinical development, and a majority are peptide-based. 3,4


  1. https://www.breastcancer.org/about-breast-cancer/breast-cancer-awareness-month
  2. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection.html
  3. Li L, Duns GJ, Dessie W, Cao Z, Ji X, Luo X. Recent advances in peptide-based therapeutic strategies for breast cancer treatment. Front Pharmacol. 2023 Jan 30;14:1052301. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2023.1052301. PMID: 36794282; PMCID: PMC9922721.
  4. Corti C, Giachetti PPMB, Eggermont AMM, Delaloge S, Curigliano G. Therapeutic vaccines for breast cancer: Has the time finally come? Eur J Cancer. 2022 Jan;160:150-174. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2021.10.027. Epub 2021 Nov 22. PMID: 34823982; PMCID: PMC8608270.