Personalized Immunotherapy for MBC Gets Boost from NIH Study

By Lou Portero - Last Updated: March 28, 2022

Ongoing research at the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Center for Cancer Research has revealed a method of immunotherapy that could help individuals beat breast cancer using their tumor-fighting cells. The NCI, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health, revealed in this study that this form of therapy depended on tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) which helped stage a fight against metastatic breast cancer.

As recorded in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on the 1st of February 2022, this form of treatment has already been used to treat six women, half of whom displayed detectable tumor reduction. Also, 67% of 42 women undergoing a clinical trial generated these immune properties. The chief of the Surgery Branch in NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, Steven A. Rosenberg, has revealed that these findings might help proffer treatment despite the general belief on the inability of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers to induce an immune response.

Despite being a form of treatment that is supposed to help boost an individual’s immune system to fight cancers, the effectiveness of immunotherapies is limited in this form of breast cancer. This method used in the above trial was initiated by Dr. Rosenberg and his colleagues at NCI in the late 1980s. It involves using TILs that target neoantigens produced on the surface of these tumor cells.

The above results are from phase 2 clinical trials designed to see the effect of immunotherapy on tumor regression among people with metastatic epithelial cancers. A woman who had been treated by this method was revealed in 2018. Out of 42 women who underwent whole-genome sequencing, it was revealed that 28 women had TILs that identified at least one neoantigen. Dr. Rosenberg has said that the neoantigens which are products of the cancer’s gene mutations might as well be its Achilles’ heel.

The six women who were treated had their TILs studied, grown, and re-administered to them following set conditions. Three of the women experienced shrunken tumors, one was totally treated, and the remaining 2 had to undergo some more procedures to remove some returning cancer. To date, after their TIL treatment, these women have been living cancer-free.

The effect of pembrolizumab, which is effective for some early-stage cancers, on the obtained results has been taken into consideration by the researchers. Although, they have also brought to notice that, independently, pembrolizumab could have sustained such results.

Dr. Rosenberg has stated that the NCI intends to utilize each patient’s lymphocyte to provide personalized treatments for the patients. He noted that the opening of new cell-based therapy buildings will create an avenue to accept more individuals into the clinical trial.


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