ACT immunotherapy cures terminal breast cancer patient

Henrietta Strickland
June 8, 2018

Do you know someone who has had breast cancer?

The Oncatype DX gene test can pinpoint women who need chemo and those who don't. She said the study gives hope to patients that immunotherapy may work where other therapies don't.

Most women with the most common form of early stage breast cancer can safely skip chemotherapy without hurting their chances of beating the disease, doctors reported from a landmark study that used genetic testing to gauge each patient's risk.

Researchers also believe the same treatment could help reverse internal-organ cancers but a lot more needs to be done.

Dr. Joseph Sparano, lead researcher, Montefiore Medical Center, New York, said, "The impact is remarkable".

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

Currently, the U.S. National Cancer Institute is preparing to conduct full-scale clinical trials to explore the effectiveness of immunotherapy as a viable cancer cure.

A test that targets particular genes in breast cancer tissue has meant fewer women have had to endure chemotherapy in recent years.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, some foundations and proceeds from the US breast cancer postage stamp.

BC Cancer and Dr. Chia had 30 to 40 patients take part in the study.

Dr. Brooke Daniel, an oncologist with Tennessee Oncology who specializes in breast cancer at CHI Memorial, said the results already have changed her practice.

The approach relies on mutations, not cancer type, he said.

Sunday's results came from a federally sponsored trial called TailorX, which was created to help doctors more precisely tailor treatments for early-stage breast cancer.

"About a week after [the therapy] I started to feel something, I had a tumor in my chest that I could feel shrinking", Perkins told the BBC. Those cells were expanded by the billions in the laboratory, then infused back into the patients, where they attacked the tumors.

Rosenberg studied Perkins' immune cells, finding those white blood cells capable of detecting genetic mutations and fighting cancer.

They found a cell line that tackled four mutations, incubated it in the lab to grow a large number of the TILs, and then delivered them via infusion, along with Merck & Co/MSD's checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda (pembrolizumab) to prevent them being inactivated by factors in the tumour microenvironment.

Immunotherapy pioneer Steven Rosenberg stressed that the approach, called adoptive cell therapy, is experimental and that several other patients who got the same treatments had not responded. Standard chemotherapy act on all rapidly dividing cancerous cells as well as normal cells, while targeted cancer therapies act on specific molecular targets that are associated with cancer. "By then I was like, "Dang, this is really working'".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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