It is the first time an immunotherapy drug, used with chemotherapy, has been shown to improve survival rates and offers hope it could be used to fight other cancers.
The trial results were published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology 2018 Congress in Munich.
Taking part were 902 patients with triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive disease that usually effects younger women.
Professor Peter Schmid, clinical director of breast cancer at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and professor of cancer medicine at Queen Mary University of London, led the study. He said: “These results are a massive step forward.
He said the team hoped the early use of immunotherapy “could lead to a cure in some patients and may apply in the treatment of other forms of breast cancers in the future”.
The trial showed that immunotherapy medication atezolizumab combined with standard chemotherapy encouraged body’s immune system to target breast cancer cells.
The chemotherapy “roughened up” the cancer surface, which let the immune system better recognise and so fight the cancer as a foreign object.
Patients with advanced cancer on the combined therapy lived for 25 months compared to those on chemotherapy alone where average survival is 15 months.
Sixty per cent on the new therapy were still alive after 25 months showing that the combined treatment reduced the risk of death or the cancer progressing by up to 40 per cent.
Professor Schmid added: “Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of breast cancer. It is particularly tragic that those affected are often young. I’m thrilled that by using a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy we are able to significantly extend lives compared to the standard treatment of chemotherapy alone.”
Up to 8,000 women a year in the UK are affected by triple-negative breast cancer.
Published at Sun, 21 Oct 2018 12:40:00 +0000