Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that seeks to harness the power of the body’s immune system to fight cancer. It works by stimulating or “training” the body’s own natural defense system to recognize and attack cancer cells, essentially giving it the ability to seek out and eliminate tumor cells on its own. Immunotherapy has recently been used in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Examples of breast cancer immunotherapy include monoclonal antibodies, checkpoint inhibitors, cytokine therapy, and adoptive cell therapies.
Monoclonal antibodies are proteins produced in the laboratory that are designed to recognize specific targets on or within cancer cells. They then attach to these targets and either mark the cancer cells for destruction by other parts of the immune system, or directly block signals used by the cancer cells to survive and grow.
Checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that target proteins on T-cells (a type of white blood cell) which prevent them from recognizing and attacking cancer cells. By blocking these proteins, checkpoint inhibitors can help enhance an immune response against breast cancer.
Cytokine therapy is a type of treatment that uses naturally occurring substances in the body called cytokines. Cytokines can be injected into the body to help stimulate an immune response against breast cancer cells and promote tumor regression.
Adoptive cell therapies involve taking T-cells from a patient, modifying them in the laboratory to make them recognize and attach to cancer cells, then infusing them back into the patient. Adoptive cell therapies can help boost an immune response against breast cancer cells and may be useful for treating metastatic disease.
Immunotherapy has emerged as a promising treatment option for many types of cancer, including metastatic breast cancer. However, not all patients respond to immunotherapy, and it can be difficult to monitor the response in those who do receive treatment.