At first glance, results with a powerful immune agent in breast cancer appear negative. In an early-phase clinical trial, only 10% of patients with metastatic disease responded to atezolizumab (Tecentriq). Yet for those few women who did respond, the benefit was dramatic. Among 112 women with evaluable, advanced disease, 11 have experienced durable responses lasting at least one year. All of those (“100%”) who responded at one year remained in remission at two years; so far, the median duration of objective responses is 21 months.
Atezolizumab, an antibody to PD-L1 manufactured by Genentech, belongs to a growing class of medicines called immune checkpoint inhibitors. This drug has been approved by the FDA for use in lung and bladder tumors, but its use in breast cancer is experimental. This week, Dr. Peter Schmid of London presented preliminary results from the Genentech-sponsored study at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Researchers (AACR) in Washington, D.C.
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