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BCRF’s Immunotherapy Initiative

By BCRF | June 6, 2018

BCRF investigators develop checkpoint inhibitors to effectively treat breast cancer

One of the most exciting new developments in cancer medicine is immunotherapy— treatments that can harness the power of the immune system to fight cancer. One exciting new class of drugs are called checkpoint inhibitors.

The main role of the immune system is to kill cells with abnormal proteins. Cancer cells can hide from the immune system, preventing the activation of cancer killing immune cells.

Checkpoint inhibitors release these brakes from immune cells, ultimately “de-shielding” the cancer cells. The cancer cells are then recognized as a threat and the immune system can get rid of them.

This form of immunotherapy opens the door to new treatments that are more targeted, effective, and may have fewer side effects.  While checkpoint inhibitors have worked well against some cancers, like lung cancer and skin cancer, this approach has yet to be proven effective against breast cancer.

Cryoablation plus immunotherapy to treat breast cancer

BCRF-supported researchers are exploring ways to change that effectiveness in breast cancer with one especially promising approach called “cryoablation.” This method involves inserting a tiny needle into the tumor, freezing it, killing it, and forcing it to release those hidden, abnormal proteins.

In the laboratory, BCRF investigators have shown how cryoablation, in combination with checkpoint inhibitors, can cure otherwise lethal tumors. This combination has been used in a few patients with very promising results.

Once activated, our immune system has memory. After immunotherapy treatment, the disease-fighting immune cells will remember the cancer it just attacked and kill any cells like them in the future, preventing recurrences.

Harnessing the power of the immune system can be the revolutionary future of breast cancer management. To reach that future, a larger clinical trial is needed to develop a viable immunotherapy treatment for breast cancer. BCRF investigators have the capacity to meet this critical need – and are working tirelessly in this area of focus. Click here to learn more about the work in immunotherapy that BCRF supports.