Immunotherapy Applicable in Breast Cancer? What Seemed Unlikely Now Holds Promise

BY Mike Hennessy, Sr.
PUBLISHED October 20, 2016
NEVER SAY NEVER, ESPECIALLY WHEN it comes to what scientists can achieve in developing treatments for cancer. That’s the lesson of recent studies showing that immunotherapy — once thought to be inapplicable in breast cancer — may be useful for some patients who have the disease.

In the past, experts had deemed breast cancer “immunologically silent,” meaning that it was unlikely to be affected by immunotherapy because the disease doesn’t have a multitude of genetic mutations, as do the cancers that respond so well to these drugs. Now, scientists are finding that, when they test immunotherapies in earlierstage breast cancers, residual cancer cells that can lead to recurrence may be responsive.

In this special issue of CURE®, we look at the types of immunotherapies being tested in breast cancer, including vaccines and checkpoint inhibitors. These inhibitors, which stop the process that normally keeps the immune system from going into overdrive, have changed the treatment landscape for melanoma and lung cancer, and are now having a modest effect in breast cancer in clinical trials. Ultimately, exciting developments may come from combining some of these treatments with each other, or with different types of drugs that already work well in breast cancer. We also bring you information about another cutting-edge trend — the development of biosimilars. Our article explains exactly what these treatment twins are, how they work and how they are expected to affect cancer care.

Our cover story explains the latest research into a side effect that’s prevalent among people who have been treated for breast cancer — chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. With very little currently available to treat this uncomfortable and often lingering side effect, scientists are turning to new strategies to try to prevent and alleviate it. In additional articles, we offer comprehensive looks at patient registries and what it means to join them; strategies being tested for lowering the cardiac toxicity that can be associated with the drug Herceptin; and the promise of liquid biopsies for cancer diagnosis.

We hope this array of information answers your outstanding questions about the breast cancer landscape, better preparing you to make sound decisions about your health during your journey with this disease. As always, thank you for reading.

MIKE HENNESSY, SR
Chairman and CEO
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