Panel discussion to explore frontier of breast cancer immunotherapy


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3 minutes

Immunotherapeutic approaches—including immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) and cellular therapies—have transformed the treatment landscape of several cancers. Although historically considered poorly immunogenic, breast cancer has now joined the long list of malignancies susceptible to immunotherapy, with the approval of ICIs, in combination with chemotherapy, for treating patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

Sherene Loi, MD, PhD
Sherene Loi, MD, PhD

State-of-the-Art Session 1: Immunotherapy—Purpose, Resistance, and Toxicity, will be moderated by Sherene Loi, MD, PhD, Professor of Cancer Therapeutics and Head of the Translational Breast Cancer Genomics and Therapeutics Lab, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre at University of Melbourne. The session will be from 1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m. CT on Wednesday, December 6 in the Stars at Night Ballroom 3-4.

Speaking about the significance of the session, Dr. Loi said, “This year I have the privilege of chairing a “State-of-the-Art” session on immunotherapy, which will specifically look at its impact in the clinic in breast cancer patients. We will also be discussing promising new therapies, such as cellular therapies, resistance mechanisms to current treatments, as well as management and prediction of immune-related toxicity. This session will be extremely interesting to attendees given that immunotherapy has now been widely implemented in the treatment of TNBC and physicians are not so used to diagnosing and treating immune-related toxicity in the breast cancer setting.”

Dr. Loi added, “Pembrolizumab is now standard of care in both early- and late-stage TNBC, with data reading out at the recent European Society of Medical Oncology [ESMO] and upcoming SABCS® meeting about its promise in hormone receptor-positive (HR+) breast cancer. Breast cancer physicians are not as experienced in immunotherapy as other cancer doctors, so it is important to be up to date with the treatments and potential side effects, as well as identifying patients who may benefit.”

Dr. Loi noted the diverse range of speakers in this session and how their experience in other cancers can be leveraged by clinicians who treat patients with breast cancer. The session will be opened by Toni K. Choueiri, MD, Director of the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology, and Jerome and Nancy Kohlberg Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, speaking on biomarkers predicting immune-related adverse events. Research led by Dr. Choueiri has led to the discovery of complex immunogenomic biomarkers and mechanisms involved in immunotherapy response and resistance in genitourinary malignancies.

Valentina Hoyos Velez, MD, Assistant Professor, Baylor College of Medicine, will explore the outlook for cellular therapies in breast and other cancers. Her work focuses on ways of modifying the tumor microenvironment, such as by targeting myeloid-derived suppressor cells, to modify the T-cell response and promote successful immune attack of solid tumors like breast cancer.

Dr. Loi, who will speak on mechanisms of resistance to immunotherapy, indicated that she will be discussing some of the data on the clinical trial CheckMate-7FL, which she is also presenting in the first General Abstract session of the 2023 SABCS. CheckMate 7FL is a phase 3 study evaluating the ICI nivolumab in combination with neoadjuvant chemotherapy and adjuvant endocrine therapy in patients with high-risk, estrogen receptor-positive (ER+), human epidermal growth factor 2-negative (HER2−) primary breast cancer.

Kevin Litchfield, PhD, Group Leader of The Tumor Immunogenomics and Immunosurveillance Lab, University College of London, will discuss the role of chromosomal instability in driving resistance to immunotherapy. Dr. Litchfield’s work combines cancer bioinformatics and experimental models to uncover genomic and transcriptomic drivers of anti-tumor immune responses.

Dr. Loi noted that the unique immune tumor microenvironment in breast cancer has specific implications for the use of immunotherapies in breast cancer. She said, “For those [clinicians] whose interest is breast cancer, its interaction with the immune system, and the implementation of effective immunotherapy treatments, this session will be of high interest. The field is changing rapidly with examples usually being led from other tumor types.”