Published: Tue, June 05, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Breast cancer treated successfully with immune therapy

Breast cancer treated successfully with immune therapy

An experimental therapy that extracts and multiplies powerful immune-system cells from inside tumors eradicated a patient's breast cancer, a scientific first that could lead to new ways of treating malignancies that have resisted all other efforts.

"The impact is tremendous", said the study leader, Dr. Joseph Sparano of Montefiore Medical Center in NY.

The woman has been cancer-free for two years, reported the US -based team, presenting their results as "a new immunotherapy approach" for the treatment of patients with a late-stage form of the disease. Exploratory analyses did suggest that the addition of chemotherapy was associated with some benefit for women 50 years of age or younger who had a recurrence score of 16 to 25, but not for those whose score 15 or lower.

According to a research article "Epidemiology of breast cancer in Indian women" by Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology, in India, breast cancer has been ranked number one cancer among Indian females.

The test is performed on tumor samples after surgery, to determine if chemo would benefit a patient.

But an immune breakthrough for bowel, breast and ovary cancer has remained elusive.

If the labor-intensive approach could be adapted for delivery to hundreds of thousands of patients, it could give patients with advanced cancers "a very highly personalized treatment", Rosenberg said.

The study is limited in some ways.

A study looked at women in the "mid-risk" category where the benefits of chemo are uncertain. After two years, she still remains cancer-free.


More than 10,000 women, aged 18 to 75, were randomly assigned to receive chemotherapy followed by hormone therapy, or hormone therapy alone.

However, these are the results from a single patient and much larger trials will be needed to confirm the findings.

"You have to balance risk versus benefit and if you can spare people the negative side effects that chemo brings along with the cost, that's big" ABC News' Chief Medical Editor Dr. Jennifer Ashton said on "Good Morning America".

Doctors at the U.S. National Cancer Institute concluded that Perkins wouldn't survive with conventional therapy and as a result picked her for a radical new therapy which harnessed the power of her immune system to fight the tumors.

A group of metastatic breast cancer experts has urged policymakers to empower patients with greater choice and participation in their treatment and care, to improve the quality of life of patients, their carers and families. Women were separated into 2 groups, one receiving only hormone therapy, the other receiving chemotherapy and hormone therapy. After years of follow-up, the data showed that most patients who did not get chemotherapy fared as well as those who did. "It was all gone", she said.

Oncotype DX is becoming more standard.

Harold Burstein, a breast cancer specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said that in some ways the debate over de-escalation misses a larger issue.

If doctors had recommended she skip chemo based on the gene test, "I would have accepted that", she said. Their study showed, for example, that chemotherapy use in patients whose cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes declined from 26.6 percent in 2013 to 14.1 percent in 2015.

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