One of the most exciting areas of study currently being conducted in breast cancer is the potential of radiation therapy to convert tumors into an in situ vaccine. Silvia Formenti, MD, associate director, Meyer Cancer Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, is one of the lead researchers in this arena.
Dr. Formenti and colleagues have long studied this potential in patients with poor responses to immunotherapy, and are currently studying it in breast cancer.
“Breast cancer tends to be a cold tumor. It doesn’t have a robust immune infiltrate to start with,” she explained, adding that for this specific reason, immunotherapy by itself may not be effective.
“Radiotherapy has the advantage of revamping that immune response and possibly inflaming the tumors and bringing to the tumor site new lymphocytes,” she said.
Radiotherapy in combination with immune checkpoint blockade has previously been shown to effective in a number of cancers such as melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer. According to Dr. Formenti, slowly and gradually, results from more types of tumors are coming to light. Studies in breast cancer are now being conducted.
“But I think there is a lot of hope [for this] in breast cancer as well,” concluded Dr. Formenti.
Dr. Formenti reports the following disclosures:
Grant/research support from: Bristol Myers Squibb, Varian, Janssen, Regeneron, Eisai, Merck
Honorario from: Briston Myers Squibb, Varian, Elekta, Janssen, Regeneron, GlaxoSmithKline, Eisai, Dynavax, Astra Zeneca, Merck