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ICR responds to study showing immunotherapy extends lives of women with aggressive breast cancer

The Institute of Cancer Research, London, today responds to​ results from a clinical trial showing that an immunotherapy drug extends survival in women with triple negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive form of the disease.


Triple-negative breast cancer has limited treatment options because it does not respond to standard hormone therapies or targeted drugs. It is usually treated with chemotherapy – but response rates remain low.


The new clinical trial is the first study to show a survival benefit of immunotherapy in women with triple-negative breast cancer. The research found that women with triple-negative breast cancer given a combination treatment of an immunotherapy drug, atezolizumab, and chemotherapy lived longer without their disease progressing. Adding atezolizumab extended their lives by up to 10 months.


The results of the clinical trial, called IMpassion130​, were presented at the ESMO 2018 Congress in Munich and published in the ​New England Journal of Medicine today (Saturday).


Professor Andrew Tutt, Director of the Breast Cancer Now Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research, and Director of the Breast Cancer Now Research Unit at King’s College London, said:


“Women with advanced triple negative breast cancer currently have a very poor outlook. Chemotherapy is the most common treatment for these women, and while it works for a number of patients, the control of disease remains poor.


“This is the first study showing that an immunotherapy has a major effect on patient survival in triple negative breast cancer, in a similar approach that has been shown to work in other types of cancer, such as skin and lung cancer.


“The trial looked at the possible benefit of an immunotherapy, called atezolizumab, that targets a protein that tumour cells use as an ‘invisibility cloak’ to hide from the immune system.


“It is unusual for a new drug to show improvements in overall survival in advanced triple negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive form of the disease. It looks as if combination treatment of atezolizumab and a chemotherapy drug, called nab-paclitaxel, extended the lives of women with triple negative breast cancer by many months when used as first treatment at recurrence.”


“The approach reported in this new study does not work for all patients with triple negative breast cancer, and there is much more to do, but this is a major step forward for women with these aggressive forms of triple negative breast cancer who deserve better from what research can and has delivered for other forms of breast cancer.”

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Last Updated: 31-Oct-2018