Published: Wed, June 06, 2018
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

Experimental immunotherapy treatment used to fight breast cancer

Experimental immunotherapy treatment used to fight breast cancer

Phyllis Laccetti, a 58-year-old night nurse at Montefiore, was diagnosed with cancer in her right breast in 2007.

The results from the phase 3 TAILORx study were presented at the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago, and are published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

When deciding how to treat a breast cancer patient, doctors have used a 21-gene test.

That's great news, since the short-term side-effects of chemotherapy can include everything from nausea, hair loss, fatigue and infection, to numbness in hands and feet, and other symptoms.

After tumor removal, genetic testing is commonly used to predict which type of chemotherapy would give the most benefit.

Previous studies demonstrated that patients with scores of 10 or less did not need chemotherapy, while women with scores above 25 did benefit from it.The new study examined the majority of women who fall in the intermediate range of 11 to 25.

"The uncertainty is over", she said.

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This study only focused on women diagnosed with breast cancer. men were not included in the study.

"These findings, [which show] no benefit from receiving chemotherapy plus hormone therapy for most patients in this intermediate-risk group, will go a long way to support oncologists and patients in decisions about the best course of treatment", Abrams said.

Patients with these kind of tumors typically undergo surgery followed by treatment with drugs that target rapidly dividing cells (chemotherapy) and drugs that block the production or action of the hormone estrogen (endocrine therapy, such as the drug Tamoxifen).

"We went rafting down the Grand Canyon", said Perkins, who has two sons and two stepsons with her husband.

The cancer in question is driven by hormones, has not spread to the lymph nodes and doesn't contain a protein called HER2.

"If confirmed in a larger study, it promises to further extend the reach of this T-cell therapy to a broader spectrum of cancers", he said.

They also have a score between 11 and 25 on the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score test, a test that measures cancer recurrence. Such patients have been in "the gray zone, and we haven't known what to tell them", Kurian said.

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Findings from a major global clinical trial suggest a significant number of women with the most common form of early-stage breast cancer do not need chemotherapy after surgery.

The trial is due to enrol around 330 patients to fully put the technique through its paces, and should be able to generate statistically-validated results in 2023. But it can fail, often because it cannot recognise cancer cells containing the patient's own DNA. While immune therapy has benefited patients with advanced melanoma, lung and some other malignancies with large numbers of mutations, it generally has not been effective against cancers that start in the linings of organs - called epithelial cancers - and have fewer mutations.

The researchers are "trying to find ways" to achieve more consistent outcomes, Goff said.

In the early 2000s, Sparano recalled, the National Cancer Institute recommended that most women be offered chemo.

Not all breast tumors behave the same way, with a number of different subtypes of breast cancer defined by genetic and protein markers.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Simon Vincent, director of research at Breast Cancer Now, said the research was "world class". "If we are going to take a step back" from chemotherapy, he said, "we really had to be sure". In particular, the treatment hasn't been hugely successful in treating common epithelial cancers.

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