Breast Cancer Now responds to study suggesting combination immunotherapy could offer new approach for treating triple negative breast cancer.

Wednesday 3 January 2018      Latest research

A new study led by researchers at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa suggests that a combination of two immunotherapies (oncolytic viruses and checkpoint inhibitors) could be successful in treating breast cancer and possibly other cancers.

Their study, which uses mouse models, was published in Science Translational Medicine and focused on triple negative breast cancer – the most aggressive and difficult-to-treat kind of breast cancer.

The researchers found that the combination of two immunotherapies (with the virus given before the surgical removal of the tumour and the checkpoint inhibitor given after) helped between 60 to 90 percent of mice to fight and survive secondary tumour development. By comparison, the checkpoint inhibitor alone saw a zero percent survival rate, while 20 to 30 percent of mice survived with the virus treatment alone.

Dr Kotryna Temcinaite, Senior Research Communications Officer at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“That this new combination of immunotherapies could provide a successful treatment approach for triple negative breast cancer is a promising early discovery, and further investigation is now needed to see whether it might work in humans.

“While triple negative breast cancers tend to be more aggressive, these patients still desperately lack targeted treatments and are currently limited primarily to surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Future immunotherapy breakthroughs could therefore have a real impact for these women, both in improving their outcomes and their quality of life.

“Immunotherapies have shown great success already in treating other cancers such as melanoma, but their progress towards the clinic for breast cancer has proven more difficult thus far.

“While only tested in mice, the idea of combining checkpoint inhibitors with a virus to try to ‘unmask’ hidden breast cancer cells and enable the immune system to attack them is an exciting area of research. We now eagerly await further studies to see whether this could be effective and safe in patients.”