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VIDEO: Immunotherapy holds potential to eliminate dormant, lethal cancer cells

SAN ANTONIO — Immunotherapy may in the future help irradiate dormant, nondividing tumor cells, thus eliminating the current need for extended endocrine therapy in women with breast cancer, Douglas Yee, MD, director of the Masonic Cancer Center, professor of medicine and pharmacology at University of Minnesota, and a HemOnc Today Editorial Board member, said at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Most therapies are directed at cancer cells that are dividing or growing, but many tumor cells are dormant. Because these cells may be the most lethal, the challenge over the next few years will be to determine how to eliminate estrogen receptor–positive luminal A breast cancer cells that are dormant, rather than requiring women to stay on endocrine therapy for 5 or 10 years posttreatment.

“I have a lot of hope that our colleagues who are thinking very hard about immunotherapy are going to help us here,” Yee said. “One of the things we have to work hard on is how do we get the immune system, when it’s unshackled from checkpoint inhibition by PD-L1 inhibitors, to measure dormant estrogen receptor–positive breast cancer cells. We have developed many monoclonal antibodies over the years that have recognized estrogen receptor–positive breast cancer cells that could serve as a neoantigen for an immune attack.” – by Kristie L. Kahl

Disclosure: Yee reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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