Immunotherapy for triple-negative breast cancer: Existing challenges and exciting prospects

Hongyan Jia, Cristina I Truica, Bin Wang, Yanhong Wang, Xingcong Ren, Harold A Harvey, Jianxun Song, Jin-Ming Yang
Drug Resistance Updates: Reviews and Commentaries in Antimicrobial and Anticancer Chemotherapy 2017, 32: 1-15
Patients with breast tumors that do not express the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor, nor Her-2/neu are hence termed "triple negatives", and generally have a poor prognosis, with high rates of systemic recurrence and refractoriness to conventional therapy regardless of the choice of adjuvant treatment. Thus, more effective therapeutic options are sorely needed for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), which occurs in approximately 20% of diagnosed breast cancers. In recent years, exploiting intrinsic mechanisms of the host immune system to eradicate cancer cells has achieved impressive success, and the advances in immunotherapy have yielded potential new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of this devastating subtype of breast cancer. It is anticipated that the responses initiated by immunotherapeutic interventions will explicitly target and annihilate tumor cells, while at the same time spare normal cells. Various immunotherapeutic approaches have been already developed and tested, which include the blockade of immune checkpoints using neutralizing or blocking antibodies, induction of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), adoptive cell transfer-based therapy, and modulation of the tumor microenvironment to enhance the activity of CTLs. One of the most important areas of breast cancer research today is understanding the immune features and profiles of TNBC and devising novel immune-modulatory strategies to tackling TNBC, a subtype of breast cancer notorious for its poor prognosis and its imperviousness to conventional treatments. On the optimal side, one can anticipate that novel, effective, and personalized immunotherapy for TNBC will soon achieve more success and impact clinical treatment of this disease which afflicts approximately 20% of patients with breast cancer. In the present review, we highlight the current progress and encouraging developments in cancer immunotherapy, with a goal to discuss the challenges and to provide future perspectives on how to exploit a variety of new immunotherapeutic approaches including checkpoint inhibitors and neoadjuvant immunotherapy for the treatment of patients with TNBC.

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