Immunotherapy is a process that helps a person’s immune system attack cancer cells. This type of treatment has significantly improved survival rates of individuals with cancer of different types. Although immunotherapy for breast cancer is being explored, it still needs more concrete evidences such as working on vitamins during chemotherapy.
Is immunotherapy a proven treatment for breast cancer?
There is a wide range of treatments for breast cancer. As of 2019, there are two immunotherapies approved to treat breast cancer. Immunotherapy is still being tested extensively in clinical trials, which are research studies that test new approaches to treatment. It is not yet an established treatment for early-stage breast cancer.
Who are those individuals with breast cancer who can respond well to immunotherapy?
Researchers are gathering data from clinical trials about who among those breast cancer patients will benefit from this treatment. People with triple-negative breast cancer may get more benefit from immunotherapy than people with other subtypes of breast cancer.
It is also considered that immunotherapy may be more likely to work in people whose breast cancer has more gene mutations or whose tumor cells have higher levels of a protein called PD-L1. Moreover, there is some information suggesting that immunotherapy may work better if given early during treatment.
In late 2018, results from a breast cancer immunotherapy clinical trial were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers found that adding immunotherapy to the chemotherapy drug may be beneficial for a specific group of people, although it increases harmful side effects, also called toxicity.
In addition, the findings support the clues found in other clinical trials about who may most benefit from immunotherapy. This treatment combination has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. More research is needed to determine which cancers are most likely to respond to the combination.
Should immunotherapy be tried if a breast cancer has not responded to multiple standard treatments?
Unfortunately as of this moment, studies of immunotherapy for breast cancer resistant to multiple prior treatments have not shown much benefit for the majority. But, there are hints that immunotherapy will eventually play a role in treating breast cancer in the future.
What are the challenges encountered in immunotherapy?
One challenge is that it can cause substantial side effects and some are even life-threatening. The most common is experiencing skin reactions, like redness and blistering, and flu-like symptoms, such as fever, nausea, weakness, and body aches. Different types of immunotherapy can cause different side effects. Another challenge is the high cost of treatment, and the possibility that insurance companies may not cover the expenses.
Is breast cancer immunotherapy research continuing?
Thankfully, new information about breast cancer immunotherapy is expected as more clinical trials are completed. These trials are being conducted not only in America but also across the world, to evaluate the combinations of immunotherapy drugs for the disease.
Some studies, combine immunotherapy with chemotherapy or targeted therapy. People with breast cancer are also encouraged to participate in immunotherapy clinical trials, whenever appropriate. Although immunotherapy is not yet a standard part of breast cancer treatment, there is hope that this will change.