Immunotherapy Before Surgery May ‘Increase the Chances’ Patients Are Cured of TNBC


Clinical trial results show that adding Keytruda to chemotherapy prior to surgery for triple-negative breast cancer can improve outcomes and hopefully “increase the chances for patients to be cured,” according to an expert.

The addition of the immunotherapy agent Keytruda (pembrolizumab) to chemotherapy before surgery decreased the risk of recurrence by almost 40% in patients with early triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), according to findings from the KEYNOTE-522 trial, explained Dr. Peter Schmid, professor of Cancer Medicine at the Barts Cancer Institute in London.

Schmid said that these promising results — which were presented at the 2021 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium — will hopefully pave the way for a new standard of care for this patient population, as well as increase the chances that patients are cured of their disease.


Now in this KEYNOTE-522 trial, we looked into whether the addition of an immune checkpoint inhibitor in the form of immunotherapy to preoperative chemotherapy could improve the way the cancer shrinks, but also could reduce recurrences over time.

We had already shown a couple of years ago, that in the preoperative part of the therapies that the combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy was more effective at making the cancer disappear at the time of surgery. We also continued immunotherapy after surgery for another six months, and we have now shown that with a total duration of one year of immunotherapy, in addition to chemotherapy and surgery, obviously, that we substantially bring down the risk of recurrences … by almost 40%.

That means we're very hopeful that we can substantially increase the chances for patients to be cured with this addition to the current treatment. And I would therefore hope that this will translate into the new standard of care for most patients with early, stage 2 or stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer, which generally, triple negative breast cancers have a size of at least two centimeters, or with axillary lymph node involvement before patients have started any treatment.

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