New drug combo can help treat advanced breast cancer

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In a new study led by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, a new combination therapy has shown promising results for patients with advanced HER2-negative breast cancer.

This innovative approach combines a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, which halts tumor cell division, with two types of immunotherapy known as checkpoint inhibitors.

These immunotherapies work by boosting the body’s immune system to fight cancer more effectively.

The study, published in Nature Cancer, was a multicenter phase IB trial designed to test whether this combination could enhance the effectiveness of checkpoint inhibitors by making the tumor environment more receptive to treatment.

The results were promising, with a 25% overall response rate (ORR) in patients with advanced HER2-negative breast cancer.

This means that a quarter of the women who underwent this treatment saw their cancer significantly reduced or entirely eliminated. Notably, patients with triple-negative breast cancer, a subtype with limited treatment options, experienced an even higher ORR of 40%.

Evanthia Roussos Torres, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s lead author, highlighted the significance of these findings.

According to Torres, the combination of the HDAC inhibitor entinostat and dual immune checkpoint inhibitors is a safe and promising strategy that deserves further exploration in a phase II study.

The trial involved 24 women with metastatic HER2-negative breast cancer, including both hormone receptor-positive and triple-negative subtypes.

Participants were treated with entinostat alongside the immunotherapies nivolumab, a PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitor, and ipilimumab, a CTLA-4 inhibitor.

The study successfully met its primary safety endpoint, demonstrating expected and manageable side effects without necessitating the discontinuation of therapy for any patient.

Additionally, the average progression-free survival (PFS) was reported at 50% at six months, indicating that the disease did not worsen for at least six months for half of the study participants.

This research marks a significant step forward in the treatment of advanced breast cancer, particularly for heavily pre-treated patients for whom current options are limited.

The combination of an HDAC inhibitor with dual immune checkpoint inhibitors represents a novel approach that could potentially change the treatment landscape for this patient group.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, with approximately 300,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

While the majority of these are hormone receptor-positive and HER2-negative, about 10% to 15% are triple-negative, a subtype that is more challenging to treat due to the lack of hormone receptors and low HER2 levels.

The success of this trial highlights the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in translating innovative hypotheses from the laboratory to the clinical setting.

It opens the door to future studies exploring new treatment strategies for patients with advanced breast cancer, offering hope to those facing this challenging diagnosis.

If you care about breast cancer, please read studies about a major cause of deadly breast cancer, and common blood pressure drugs may increase death risk in breast cancer.

For more information about cancer, please see recent studies that new cancer treatment could reawaken the immune system, and results showing vitamin D can cut cancer death risk.

The research findings can be found in Nature Cancer.

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