Immunotherapy trial

Immunotherapy, which is being used successfully to treat patients with melanoma, will now be trialled in patients with Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. 

Immunotherapy is a treatment which uses certain parts of a person’s immune system to fight diseases such as cancer. It does this by stimulating the immune system to work harder and attack the cancer cells. Without the treatment, the immune system may not recognise the cancer cells as ‘foreign’ thus it does not attack them. However, now researchers have found ways to help the immune system recognise the cancer cells and to strengthen its response to them. 

The trial will investigate using the drug Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) as Monotherapy (treatment by a single drug) in patients with metastatic TNBC. The trial is open for recruitment in Auckland and will be the only New Zealand centre for the trial. Auckland oncologist and Principal Investigator, Dr David Porter, says they are limited to taking five patients. “We can’t, unfortunately, enrol patients who do not live in Auckland. This is a complex protocol and can’t be done on short visits.” Worldwide, the trial aims to recruit 245 patients.

The trial is open to women needing second line treatment for metastatic TNBC – i.e. they must have had at least one line of chemotherapy for metastatic disease and one treatment with a taxane and an anthracycline for either metastatic or adjuvant therapy. 

Patients with recurrent TNBC should contact their oncologist who will know if they will meet the eligibility criteria.