October 27, 2023
Immunotherapy is a groundbreaking treatment approach that works by boosting the immune system to combat diseases like cancer and autoimmune disorders. This revolutionary cancer treatment approach ensures more targeted and personalized cancer care. Immunotherapy is particularly effective for certain types of cancer like bladder, cervical, breast cancer, etc.
In this blog post, we will share comprehensive insights into breast cancer immunotherapy, including its effectiveness in treating breast cancer and possible side effects. Read on to learn more.
In order to understand the functioning of immunotherapy for breast cancer, it is crucial to know how breast cancer develops. Breast cancer occurs when the cell production process is disrupted in the breast glands, ducts, and tissues, contributing to the rapid growth of abnormal cells. As abnormal cell production increases, it leads to the formation of a mass of tissue or a tumor. These types of tumors in the breast can either be benign or malignant.
Immunotherapy helps destroy the cancerous cells and prevent the formation of new, abnormal cells in two ways, which are as follows:
This immunotherapy essentially stimulates the immune system to become more responsive to cancer. Healthcare providers develop these immunotherapies by examining cancer cells for antigens - foreign substances or toxins. They prescribe drugs that direct the immune system toward attacking the specific cancer cells.
Healthcare providers recommend synthetic drugs containing immune molecules to those who do not produce them on their own.
Our immune system can prevent itself from attacking healthy cells within the body. In order to restrain itself from attacking healthy cells, it relies on proteins known as 'checkpoints' located on immune cells. It has to be either activated or deactivated to initiate an immune response.
In breast cancer, sometimes the cancer cells prevent these checkpoint proteins from initiating an immune response. Immunotherapy checkpoint inhibitors target these proteins and restore the immune response against breast cancer cells.
PD-1 inhibitor Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) is a pharmaceutical agent that targets PD-1, a protein found in T cells of the immune system. It obstructs the PD-1 and enhances the immune response directed at attacking cancerous cells.
According to studies, oncologists often recommend this medication with chemotherapy to address triple-negative breast cancer in the following scenarios:
Pre-surgery and post-surgery for stage 2 or 3 cancers.
In cases where the cancer has recurred locally but is not amenable to surgical removal.
In the case of metastatic breast cancer, where cancer has spread to other regions and distant organs of the body.
The main goal of antitumor vaccines is to trigger a strong, targeted immune response against cancerous cells. These vaccines activate T cells that can identify and eliminate cancer cells that have multiplied.
In addition, early T-cell reactions can help prevent cancer recurrence by creating a lasting immune memory. Moreover, once the medical team identifies the mutated tumor antigens, it can aid in customizing vaccination plans.
Oncologists generally use some monoclonal antibodies, such as Trastuzumab (Herceptin) and Pertuzumab (Perjeta), in combination with chemotherapy for HER2-positive breast cancer. These antibodies target specific proteins on the surface of cancer cells and can help the immune system recognize and destroy them.
CAR-T cells have two essential components: an antibody-binding part and a cell signaling component. These CAR structures also include elements that improve the endurance and effectiveness of T cells. Scientists have developed CARs that target various antigens and have shown effective results in treating breast cancer in various animal studies. There are different types of CAR-T cells designed to target specific molecules like mucin 1, folate receptors, and HER2-MUC1.
Breast cancer immunotherapy is a highly personalized cancer treatment approach, and the choice of immunotherapy depends on individual health conditions and requirements. Therefore, individuals should contact a cancer treatment center and consult an oncologist.
According to the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), HER2-targeted immunotherapy has shown promising results in breast cancer treatment. Scientists are currently investigating the combination of immunotherapy with chemotherapy. Experts have suggested that combining immunotherapy treatments, such as pairing a vaccine with monoclonal antibodies or chemotherapy, may be more effective in stimulating an immune response.
Unlike any other treatment options, immunotherapy medications can potentially lead to side effects, which are as follows:
Loss of appetite
Digestive issues which can lead to constipation or diarrhea
In some cases, more severe side effects can occur, although such cases are less frequent.
For individuals receiving intravenous drug administration, there is a possibility of experiencing an infusion reaction. These symptoms are similar to those of an allergic reaction and may include:
Fever and chills
Itching or rashes
Immunotherapy can also potentially trigger autoimmune reactions where the immune system mistakenly targets healthy tissues. Healthcare providers may suggest corticosteroids to suppress the immune system and reduce the risk of autoimmune disorders.
If individuals encounter any adverse effects from immunotherapy medications, they should immediately inform their healthcare team.
It is crucial to consult a multidisciplinary medical team and discuss all aspects of the treatment procedure to understand breast cancer immunotherapy and how it can affect individual cases. A multidisciplinary team includes specialists from various medical disciplines, including oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, and more. Their collective expertise allows for a holistic assessment of individual health conditions and helps tailor a treatment plan considering a person's unique needs.
For any queries or concerns about breast cancer immunotherapy or other advanced cancer treatment approaches, contact ACTC, one of the best cancer treatment centers in America. We are a leading Florida cancer center that provides state-of-the-art facilities and personalized care under the supervision of a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals. Schedule your appointment now!