Dr Lee Schwartzberg Reflects on the Approval of the First Immunotherapy Regimen in Breast Cancer

April 12, 2019

The breast cancer community is very excited about the approval of atezolimuab for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer, explained Lee Schwartzberg, MD, FACP, executive director, West Cancer Center.

The breast cancer community is very excited about the approval of atezolimuab for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer, explained Lee Schwartzberg, MD, FACP, executive director, West Cancer Center.

Transcript

The FDA recently approved the first immunotherapy regimen for breast cancer with the approval of atezolizumab. How important was this approval for a type of breast cancer that didn’t have many other treatment options?

We’re very excited about the approval of atezolizumab in triple-negative breast cancer. This is a disease that has a poor outcome, and of all the subgroups of breast cancer, this one has the worst prognosis when it becomes metastatic. And also, we’ve been very excited about immuno-oncology (IO) drugs in many other types of cancers.

We’ve been waiting in breast cancer to get an IO drug approved, and now we have atezolizumab with abraxane for triple-negative breast cancer patients that are PD-L1 [programmed death ligand-1] positive—that’s the biomarker that distinguishes those that are going to respond. We’ve seen some great results with response rates and some intriguing preliminary overall survival data, which will have to continue to mature. I think the breast cancer community is very excited about having an IO options finally to treat our patients, particularly for this very difficult group of patients to treat.

Do you think there is a future for more immunotherapy in breast cancer?

Yes—we’re going to be seeing many other trials of immunotherapy in breast cancer. In the metastatic setting, in the same type of setting that atezolizumab has been approved, there are other partner drugs that are being tested with atezolizumab. Some of the other PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors are also being tested in the first-line for metastatic disease, and we’ve already learned that PD-1 inhibitors in breast cancer work better the earlier that you use them before the immune system is exhausted. That’s led to studies of using immunotherapy in the neoadjuvant or adjuvant setting. Those studies are ongoing, but many of us are very excited that that might be the ultimate best use of immunotherapy in breast cancer and preventing recurrence of disease rather than treating it.