The Challenge of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

breast cancer

The majority of breast cancers are fueled by estrogen, progesterone or the HER-2/neu gene. In triple-negative breast cancer, these receptors are not present, so common treatments like hormone therapy and drugs that selectively target estrogen, progesterone and HER-2 are ineffective. New treatment approaches are urgently needed. Daniel Stover, MD, a breast medical oncologist and researcher at the OSUCCC – James, says immuno-oncology approaches to care represent new hope for patients impacted by this disease.

In March 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the immuno-oncology drug atezolizumab (marketed as Tecnetriq®) for the treatment of certain metastatic triple-negative breast cancers when given in combination with the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel (marketed as Abraxane®).

Atezolizumab is a monoclonal antibody that targets specific proteins (PDL1) in cancer cells. Studies have shown that combination atezolizumab and paclitaxel treatment are more effective than paclitaxel alone for metastatic triple negative breast cancer patients whose tumors infiltrating immune cells express PDL1.

“These targeted immuno-oncology therapies help make cancer cells more visible to the immune system, and it’s exciting to see momentum in this disease because it is urgently needed. We are just scratching the surface of immuno-oncology’s potential in breast cancer treatment,” says Stover.

The OSUCCC – James is involved in clinical trials to investigate the potential of immuno-oncology in various forms of breast cancer. This includes trials looking at a vaccine to prevent recurrence in patients with HER-2+ breast cancer, an engineered immune cell therapy for treatment of HER-2+ advanced tumors, and targeted drug therapy trials for metastatic disease, including triple-negative breast cancer. Another phase I study led by Robert Wesolowoski, MD, a medical oncologist and researcher at the OSUCCC – James, evaluates how well two targeted agents (ibrutinib and nivolumab) work in treating participants with solid tumors that have spread to other places in the body. The study also examines the therapy’s impact on immunosuppressive function.

To learn more about breast cancer care and research at the OSUCCC – James, visit cancer.osu.edu/breastcancer or call 800-293-5066.