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Immunotherapy for Breast Cancer
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What Makes Immunotherapy a Promising Treatment for Breast Cancer?

Reviewed By: Leisha A. Emens, M.D., Ph.D.
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Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Baltimore, MD
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The most commonly diagnosed cancer type among women around the world, breast cancer is also one of the main cancer types for which new immunotherapy treatments are currently being developed.

The need for effective, lasting breast cancer treatment is urgent, as breast cancer accounts for over 12 percent of all cancers diagnosed globally each year—making it the second most common cause of cancer-related death among women. There were approximately 1.7 million new diagnoses worldwide in 2012, and half a million deaths. The numbers are staggering, with approximately 1 in 8 U.S. women and about 1 in 1,000 men developing invasive breast cancer at some point in their lives.

Current methods for breast cancer treatment typically involve surgery if the disease is diagnosed early. Depending on the stage and molecular characteristics of the cancer when diagnosed, breast cancer surgery may be followed by additional chemo, radiation, or targeted therapies, including hormone therapy.

Breast cancer has traditionally been regarded as immunologically silent, though several newer preclinical and clinical studies now suggest that immunotherapy treatment has the potential to improve outcomes for breast cancer patients, and displays numerous advantages over more conventional chemo-based treatments that directly target the tumor itself.

Three immunotherapies, have been been approved for breast cancer: the targeted antibodies pertuzumab and trastuzumab, as well as the antibody-drug conjugate trastuzumab emtansine.Several other breast cancer immunotherapies have shown promising results in recent clinical trials, including: therapeutic vaccines eliciting an immune response against tumor-related antigens; checkpoint inhibitors/immune modulators, treatments that enhances existing anti-cancer immune system responses; adoptive cell therapy (adoptive T cell transfer), in which T cells are genetically modified or treated to enhance their effect on the immune system's anti-cancer abilities. Additional breast cancer clinical trials involve oncolytic virus therapies, antibodies, adjuvant immunotherapies, and cytokines.


CRI's Impact on Breast Cancer

Our science-first organization's commitment to breast cancer research and breast cancer immunotherapy goes back nearly four decades, when we first began to fund the New York Metropolitan Breast Cancer group—a coalition of physicians and surgeons from over 15 medical institutions working together to develop a coordinated breast cancer diagnosis and treatment program.

At the Cancer Research Institute, we’re invested in the promise of effective breast cancer immunotherapy treatment and dedicated to developing lifesaving cures for all cancers. When you support CRI, you're supporting the best scientists in the field doing the best research, advancing breast cancer immunotherapy treatments and bringing more clinical trials to more patients around the world.

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*Immunotherapy results may vary from patient to patient.

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