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The rise of immunotherapy has given millions of cancer patients new hope. The first checkpoint inhibitor was approved in 2011 by the U.S Food and Drug Administration.  Presently, there are six approved checkpoint inhibitors. Unfortunately for patients with breast cancer, immunotherapy is still not a definitive option for treatment.

What is a Checkpoint Inhibitor and How do They Work?
Checkpoint inhibitors work in an interesting way. They block signals used by cancer cells to escape the wrath of the immune system. Research has shown patients with triple-negative breast cancer seem to respond better to checkpoint inhibitors compared to patients with breast cancer of another type. Scientist don’t completely understand this phenomenon. As more research is completed, a better understanding will be revealed.

The Mystery of Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Triple-negative breast cancers tend to have high levels of T-cells.These may be activated by checkpoint inhibitors. The Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer published an article stating the theory that  “tumors with high TILs may also have increased PD-L1 expression, which might be the reason that triple-negative breast cancer seems to demonstrate the most robust clinical response to immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy, but further investigation is needed.”

Why Some Patients May use Immunotherapy for Treatment
Even though immunotherapy is considered elusive for breast cancer patients, some  patients may be treated with a checkpoint inhibitor. For instance:

There is a specific genetic characteristic to a patient’s tumor, therefore qualifying them for immunotherapy. A clinical trial is approved for some patients.

While immunotherapy may not be a viable option at this time, research is continuing to uncover new ways to treat breast cancer patients. There is so much scientists and researchers don’t yet understand about this terrible condition called cancer. At Choice Cancer Care, we strive to treat our patients with the best and most up to date treatments available.


About Author
Choice Cancer Care is an independent, physician-owned cancer center network. Dr. Gregory Echt, a radiation oncologist with over two decades of experience, is the founder of Choice Cancer Care. Choice Cancer Care is among the busiest practices in the country for brachytherapy, or prostate seed implant therapy – a cancer treatment plan for prostate cancer that provides remarkable success rates and fewer life-limiting side effects.

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