Metastatic triple negative breast cancer is one of the most aggressive and fatal forms of breast cancer. Currently, there is no cure.
But recently, there was a breakthrough for this deadly subset of breast cancer in immunotherapy. In October 2018, results from the large scale IMpassion 130 clinical trial were published. This multicenter study demonstrated a clear benefit of adding immunotherapy in treatment plans for select patients with metastatic triple negative breast cancer (mTNBC). These findings led to FDA approval of a new immunotherapy agent, known as atezolizumab, for treating metastatic triple negative breast cancer in March 2019.
“The IMpassion 130 trial brings new optimism that immunooncology drugs will soon become routinely used in treating breast cancer patients,” said Dr. Dorraya El-Ashry, BCRF Chief Scientific Officer. “It is a game-changing outcome and opens the door for new avenues of research into understanding how to make immunotherapy effective in breast cancer.”
Immunooncology harnesses the power of the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. BCRF has been committed to this field for more than a decade. To that end, in August 2018 the Foundation hosted a think tank comprised of leading researchers in the field from: the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI), the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) and BCRF. Led by Dr. Elizabeth Mittendorf of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the investigators conceptualized a new study, the TRIBUTE study, designed to capitalize on the recent success of the IMpassion 130 clinical trial.
This collaborative effort will follow patients treated with immunooncology agents and collect samples for future analysis and research. These clinical data and tissue, blood, and stool samples will form a repository, a first-of-its kind resource, available to the broader scientific community, and is expected to catalyze further advancements in immunotherapy treatments.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to predict which patients are going to respond to immunotherapy,” said Dr. Elizabeth Mittendorf. “These three tremendous organizations have allowed us to pool six leading academic sites, to do the highest level of science, to learn from these patients.”
Researchers hope their efforts could improve outcomes for more patients receiving immunotherapy treatments for example, by adjusting the timing and combinations of the immunotherapy treatment or adding an additional therapy that might create a stronger immune response. The information gathered from patients, like side effects and microbiome analyses, can inform how these immunooncology agents will work for metastatic triple negative breast cancer patients and potentially in a larger variety of solid tumors.
“The results will have far-reaching implications on the resolution and treatment of not just breast, but all cancers,” said El-Ashry.
TRIBUTE is a collaboration between BCRF, the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, and the Cancer Research Institute. BCRF’s commitment is fulfilled thanks to the generosity of BCRF Board Member and longtime supporter, Karen Hale and her husband, Rob, who are investing $1 million to support this project, and other immunooncology initiatives.
“We are proud to support the visionary work of Dr. Elizabeth Mittendorf and BCRF’s contributions to the TRIBUTE study,” said Karen Hale. “Fostering collaboration is one of our greatest passions, and BCRF is a leader in bringing scientists together. We have great hope in studies like TRIBUTE to yield tangible results for women and men around the world.”
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