A new immunotherapy treatment for women who have an aggressive type of breast cancer has yielded positive results, according to a new study.
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London and St. Bartholomew Hospital have published a paper that shows how the combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy can extend the lives of people with triple-negative breast cancer.
The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study was also presented at the European Society of Medical Oncology 2018 Congress.
"These results are a massive step forward," Peter Schmid, the author of the paper and a professor at the Queen Mary University of London, stated. "We are changing how triple-negative breast cancer is treated in proving for the first time that immune therapy has a substantial survival benefit."
Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of cancer that usually affects young women. Often, the treatment option available for people diagnosed with the disease is chemotherapy.
However, after a while, the patients develop resistance to the treatment. If cancer spreads from the breast to other parts of the body, the patient is given 12 to 15 months to live.
The new immunotherapy treatment developed by Schmid and his colleagues allows the patient to live an addition of up to 10 more months. It combines regular weekly chemotherapy and the immunotherapy medication atezolizumab which is administered every two weeks. This enables the patient's own immune system to recognize and attack the triple-negative breast cancer.
The study involved patients who have been diagnosed with untreated metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. Participants were divided into groups, with one receiving atezolizumab and nab-paclitaxel while the other given placebo and nab-paclitaxel.
After the trial, the median survival of the patients from the atezolizumab group was 25.0 months versus 15.5 months from the placebo group. The researchers also boasted that the new treatment can reduce the risk of dying of cancer by 40 percent.
"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," added Schmid.
Now that the study has yielded positive results, the treatment will be reviewed by public health officials to be considered as an option for patients diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. The researchers hope that the treatment will be available via the U.K. National Health Service.