Immunotherapy drugs for breast cancer
Immuno-Oncology (IO) and Immunotherapy drugs are humanity's best shot at beating cancer.
During the last few years, IO has revealed impressive, durable responses in a variety of tumor types for which conventional therapies historically have had limited success (melanoma, leukemia, lymphoma, lung, liver, bladder, etc).
The power of this approach is highlighted in countless articles (like here and here) as well as a variety of TV broadcasts, including:
1. HBO's Vice TV special: "Killing Cancer", explored a subset of IO called "Virotherapy" and how the following three common viruses are genetically modified to find and kill cancer:
- A re-engineered Measles virus was used to treat patients with Multiple Myeloma.
- A re-engineered Adenovirus (like the common cold) to treat patients with Glioblastoma (GBM) brain tumors.
- A re-engineered HIV virus to treat patients with the blood cancer Leukemia.
2. 60 Minutes TV special: "Killing Cancer" focused on curing GBM by using a re-engineered Polio virus.
3. PBS TV special: "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies" tells the complete story of cancer, from its history to current breakthroughs. It's six hours long, broken into three videos, with the last part covering IO.
We've reached an inflection point to change the trajectory of breast cancer treatment.
In late 2015, an unprecedented coalition was formed to accelerate progress in IO.
Called the "Cancer Moon Shot 2020" (#CancerMoonShot), this endeavor will bring patients closer to Immunotherapies and precision medicine, by not only exploiting genetics (DNA), but also epigenetics (gene expression), proteomics (protein expression), metabolomics (cancer metabolism). Here's a couple video's discussing the effort:
4. Cancer MoonShot 2020, explained in very simple terms, here.
5. Cancer MoonShot 2020 Press Conference (Jan 2016), here. Listen to the experts.
If you're smart, you asked the question: how can immunotherapy be harnessed in Breast Cancer?
To answer this, I researched the usual resources and was surprised at the paucity of info.
Breastcancer.org's page, Using the Immune Response to Treat BC is outdated and extremely incomplete.
It only discusses these Monoclonal Antibodies (mAbs) used for HER2+ patients:
Herceptin (trastuzumab), Tykerb (lapatinib), Perjeta (pertuzumab), Kadcyla (Trastuzumab or T-DM1).
The Cancer Research Institute's webpage, "Immunotherapy for Breast Cancer", is the most comprehensive resource for US based research,
although it was last updated Sept 2014. [Dr. Leisha Emens of John Hopkins reviewed and updated the webpage in March 2016].
It's written that "breast cancer has historically been considered immunologically silent". This statement may contribute to why breast cancer lags behind when compared to other cancers. This notion that breast cancer, in particular ER+ disease, is "not very immunogenic" is an antiquated view that needs to end.
I understand it's "early days", but the breast cancer industry needs a serious paradigm shift.
Listen to this comment at the 2016 CancerMoonShot press conference here). Priorities should be realigned towards the basic science of IO and then translated into cures that exceed the ~7% that standard therapies offer metastatic patients over 10 years (Source: Weissman, June 2015, ~10:00 minute mark).
As patients / caretakers, we should be discussing Immunotherapies with our doctors, encouraging breast cancer researchers to explore this approach and supporting funding efforts aimed at moving the field forward.
So, in a effort to advocate for this community, I wanted to start this topic and get others to ask these questions:
- What progress is being made in Breast Cancer Immunotherapy?
- Who are the thought leaders and researchers in Breast Cancer Immunotherapy?
- Most importantly, where are the Breast Cancer Immunotherapy clinical trials?
Who else shares this sense of urgency?