Im­munother­apy boosts sur­vival rates

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - News -

Women with an ag­gres­sive type of breast can­cer lived longer if they re­ceived im­munother­apy plus chemo­ther­apy, rather than chemo alone, a ma­jor study has found.

The re­sults are ex­pected to change the stan­dard of care for women like those in the clin­i­cal trial, who had ad­vanced cases of “triple-neg­a­tive” breast can­cer. That form of the dis­ease of­ten re­sists stan­dard ther­a­pies, and sur­vival rates are poor. It is twice as com­mon in African-Amer­i­can women as in white women, and more likely to oc­cur in younger women.

Re­searchers said the new study was a lon­gawaited break­through for im­munother­apy in breast can­cer. Un­til now, most progress had been in other can­cers, in­clud­ing lung can­cer and me­lanoma, an ag­gres­sive skin can­cer.

These find­ings may lead to the first ap­proval by the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion for an im­munother­apy drug to treat breast can­cer. But the ap­proval would likely be lim­ited to a cer­tain type of ag­gres­sive can­cer.

Al­though triple-neg­a­tive tu­mors oc­cur in only about 15 per­cent of pa­tients with in­va­sive breast can­cer in the United

States (or nearly 40,000 each year), they ac­count for a dis­pro­por­tion­ate share of deaths, as many as 30 per­cent to 40 per­cent.

“These women re­ally


New York Times

needed a break,” Dr. In­grid Mayer, a breast can­cer spe­cial­ist at Van­der­bilt Univer­sity, said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “Noth­ing has worked well.”

Mayer, who was not part of the study, called the find­ings “very sig­nif­i­cant.” She said she had re­ceived con­sult­ing fees from seven drug com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Ge­nen­tech, which is the maker of the im­munother­apy drug in the study and paid for the re­search.

The term triple-neg­a­tive refers to the tu­mors’ lack of sen­si­tiv­ity to the hor­mones es­tro­gen and pro­ges­terone, and their lack of a pro­tein called HER2, which is a tar­get of treat­ment.

The im­munother­apy in the study was ate­zolizumab (brand name Te­cen­triq), which be­longs to a class of drugs called check­point in­hibitors; the chemo­ther­apy was nab­pa­cli­taxel (Abrax­ane).

The find­ings were pub­lished Satur­day in The New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine and were to be pre­sented at a meet­ing of the Euro­pean So­ci­ety for Med­i­cal On­col­ogy in Mu­nich. The study in­cluded 902 pa­tients treated at

246 med­i­cal cen­ters in 41 coun­tries. Ge­nen­tech, which is part of Roche, has al­ready sub­mit­ted the data to the FDA for ap­proval.

Check­point in­hibitors such as ate­zolizumab work by help­ing T-cells – a type of white blood cell that is part of the im­mune sys­tem – rec­og­nize can­cer and at­tack it. Re­search that led to these drugs won this year’s No­bel

Prize in medicine.

The drugs gen­er­ally work for fewer than half of pa­tients but can bring last­ing re­cov­er­ies even to peo­ple who were se­verely ill. Side ef­fects can be dan­ger­ous, even lifethreat­en­ing, and treat­ment costs more than $100,000 a year.

In the new study, the key to suc­cess seems to have been giv­ing chemo­ther­apy along with im­munother­apy.

HI­LARY SWIFT NYTMari­bel Ramos, a breast can­cer pa­tient, says her tu­mors shrank within a few months with im­munother­apy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.