Optimizing standard treatment modalities for breast cancer has improved the outlook for women afflicted with it, but the fact that 40% still ultimately die from the disease highlights the need for new therapies. Remarkable advances in molecular immunology and biotechnology have created a unique opportunity for developing active vaccination strategies that engage the patient's own immune system in the fight against breast cancer. Early clinical trials have established the safety and bioactivity of some breast cancer vaccine approaches, with a hint of clinical response. They have also highlighted the importance of elucidating the pharmacodynamic interactions between established therapies for breast cancer, such as tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitors, chemotherapy, the HER-2/neu-specific monoclonal antibody trastuzumab (Herceptin), and breast cancer vaccines. Preclinical studies have simultaneously defined the importance of developing targeted approaches for circumventing established immune tolerance to breast cancer during the vaccination process. The first strategies targeting the negative influence of CD4+CD25+ T regulatory cells and the CTLA-4 signaling pathway are just entering clinical testing in combination with tumor vaccines. Developing the most potent approach for activating antitumor immunity while maintaining the efficacy of standard approaches to breast cancer management will ensure that active immunotherapy is successfully integrated into the standard of care.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Cancer Research