Published on June 21, 2019

New Treatment for Triple Negative Breast Cancer

By Steve Lo, MD, Hematology & Oncology, Carl & Dorothy Bennett Cancer Center

This article was originally published in The Stamford Advocate with the title, "Stamford Patients Benefit from New Breast Cancer Treatment (op-ed)."

Pink Ribbon: New Treatment for Triple Negative Breast CancerRecently, there’s been an exciting advancement for women with an aggressive type of breast cancer in our community. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that women with triple-negative breast cancer live longer if they receive immunotherapy in addition to chemotherapy, versus receiving chemotherapy alone.

This was studied during a new clinical trial utilizing an immunotherapy drug by Genentech, and I’m proud to say that Stamford Health’s Bennett Cancer Center was one of the sites for this research. As a result, we have patients who benefited greatly from this study. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the immunotherapy drug Atezulizumab to treat this aggressive type of breast cancer. This new drug will provide a new approach to how we can stimulate someone’s immune system to fight breast cancer.

It is encouraging news that there is a new treatment for a form of breast cancer that usually has low survival rates and resists standard therapies. Triple-negative tumors impact 15 percent of patients in the United States each year. For those 40,000 patients, this invasive breast cancer accounts for 30 to 40 percent of deaths.

There is a revolution in the treatment of cancers. The move to treat patients using highly targeted therapies is rapidly increasing. We have the ability to detect mutations in cancer cells that can be targeted. Through biomarkers, we can also determine which cancers may be very sensitive to immunotherapies. The technological advances over the past decade has led to the record approval of the number anti-cancer drugs. Clinical research such as described above is what makes all this possible.

Since 1985, oncologists associated with the Stamford Health Bennett Cancer Center have been principal investigators for clinical research trials that have led to today’s standard of care treatments for many types of cancers. In fact, 16 trials over the course of several years led to FDA approval of drugs for treatment in breast, colon, lung, lymphoma, melanoma, multiple myeloma and prostate cancers.

Six to 10 percent of Bennett Cancer Center patients are enrolled in clinical trials compared to an average of just 3 percent at many other cancer centers. Our involvement in these trials provides patients with access to a wide range of new, experimental drugs without having to leave the community to access leading-edge chemotherapy, biotherapy and immunotherapy treatments. Physicians are enrolling patients onto studies that include multi-modality with personalized drug, surgical and radiation therapies.

We’re proud to provide such a robust clinical trials program at Stamford Health, but most importantly, we strive to bring hope to our patients every day — and this is one way we work hard to do just that.

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