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Your Healthy Family: Immunotherapy + chemo fights aggressive breast cancer

Posted at 8:24 AM, Oct 29, 2018
and last updated 2019-07-09 11:27:40-04

CLEVELAND, OHIO – As Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close, there’s good news on the horizon for women diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease.

For the first time, research shows a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy can reduce the spread of stage four triple negative breast cancer and help women live longer without cancer.

Jame Abraham, M.D., Director of Breast Oncology at Cleveland Clinic, did not take part in the study but explained that immunotherapy is designed to boost the immune system.

“Immunotherapy will allow our immune system, our T-cells, to attack the tumor, allowing our body to fight the cancer,” he said.

Researchers studied 902 women with stage four triple negative breast cancer.

Study results showed immunotherapy, combined with chemotherapy, reduced the spread of cancer and helped women live longer without cancer.

Fifteen percent of breast cancers are found to be triple negative – which means the tumor is missing receptors for three specific proteins that are often targeted during treatment.

Triple negative breast cancer tends to be more aggressive than other types of the disease and doesn’t respond well to therapies typically used to help slow or stop the growth of breast cancer cells.

Once triple negative breast cancer spreads, survival rates are poor and treatment options are limited.

Dr. Abraham said this research is the first step towards a new tool in the fight against triple negative breast cancer, and beyond.

“Now we have a signal that immunotherapy can potentially work in breast cancer, especially in triple negative,” he said. “Now we’ll have more studies looking at the role of immunotherapy in triple negative, and other subsets of breast cancer.”

Immunotherapy for breast cancer is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, there are several clinical trials underway for both early and late stage breast cancer.

Women interested in learning more about immunotherapy for breast cancer clinical trials can visit clinicaltrials.gov.