Immunotherapy boosts survival in breast cancer patients, a new clinical trial has found. A new therapy could change the treatment for a very vigorous and stubborn form of breast cancer: triple-negative, the scientists say.
Triple-negative breast cancer is the form of cancer that that does not express the genes for two hormones receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR) and one protein HER2/neu. In severe cases, it becomes resistant to chemotherapy that makes it more difficult to treat.
According to existing research, this triple-negative breast cancer is more likely to affect younger women in their 40s or 50s.
Now, for the first time, a new clinical experiment has shown that a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy can boost survival rates for people with triple-negative breast cancer.
The trial, conducted by researchers at the Queen Mary University of London and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, both in London, United Kingdom, was explained in the New England Journal of Medicine. Its success was also summarized at the European Society for Medical Oncology 2018 Congress, held in Munich, Germany.
In their experiment, the researchers used Atezolizumab, a monoclonal antibody (immunotherapy drug), and the chemotherapeutic agent Nab-paclitaxe. The team gave Nab-paclitaxel to the participants on a weekly basis. They also added an Atezolizumab dose to the initial dose once every other week.
They found that this combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy reduced participants’ risk of death by up to 40 percent. In addition, it is able to increase an individual’s lifespan by up to 10 months.
“In a combined treatment approach, we are using chemotherapy to tear away the tumour’s ‘immune-protective cloak’ to expose it as well as enabling people’s own immune system to get at it,” said Prof. Peter Schmid.