At the CRI Virtual Immunotherapy Patient Summit in October, patients and caregivers were eager to further their understanding of immunotherapy for breast cancer.
Sylvia Adams, M.D., director of clinical breast cancer research, and Victor Ty, BSN, RN, oncology clinical research manager, both at NYU’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, led the Breast Cancer and Immunotherapy Breakout Session.
We followed up with Dr. Adams and Victor Ty after the event to discuss several more questions from attendees.
If you are on chemotherapy and stable, should you try immunotherapy?
Dr. Adams: In general, if a patient’s cancer is stable on a current regimen, such as chemotherapy, one would not add additional treatment regimens. Rather, we generally advise the patient continue treatment until no further benefit is obtained, and then switch at that time.
How do I sign up for breast cancer clinical trial? I am having such difficulty finding help and getting on a list for a clinical trial.
Victor Ty: Patients, family, and friends should first discuss clinical trials with their current oncologist and ask if they know any trials appropriate for them. The other option is to go to specific institution of choice and search their clinical trial database. For example, NYU’s Perlmutter Cancer Center clinical research portal provides a gateway for patients to search for clinical trials and find out what is offered. If you know your diagnosis, histology, and history of treatment, you can try to search the trial database. If you do find a trial, you can then enter your preliminary information and send a message to the research team via the portal. This inquiry is then directed to appropriate research teams who are prepared to in answer questions and let you know what else is needed to be eligible for the clinical trial about which you are inquiring.
You can also use CRI’s Clinical Trial Finder to search for immunotherapy clinical trials near you and schedule a time to speak with a CRI Clinical Trial Navigator.
How do I go about getting genomic sequencing and genetic testing?
Dr. Adams: Genetic testing is typically ordered by a doctor or genetic counselor. This testing is ordered after a discussion about the risks and benefits as well as the chance that you carry a specific mutation. Your health care team will provide you with detailed information to understand what test results mean and what options are available to you. After that discussion, you will decide with your team whether or not you will proceed with testing or not.
Genomic sequencing is typically performed on a tumor sample and is requested by the treating physician in certain circumstances.
I have breast cancer that has metastasized to my lungs. Is there an immunotherapy that can target both?
Dr. Adams: Yes, immunotherapy can target both. Immunotherapy is a systemic therapy that targets not only the primary tumor in the breast, but also metastases throughout the body.
How has immunotherapy changed the way you treat patients?
Dr. Adams: Since immunotherapy has the potential to lead to durable responses, I think it should be considered and included in all discussions with patients. Currently, the only FDA approved breast cancer immunotherapy is given in combination with chemotherapy for metastatic triple negative breast cancer. However, I always encourage patients to consider immunotherapy clinical trials, even for other breast cancer subtypes.
Register for Part 2 of the CRI Virtual Immunotherapy Patient Summit