JUN 26, 2021 8:27 AM PDT

Immunotherapy Drug Shows Promise for Obese Patients with Breast Cancer

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Research shows that obese patients with cancers including ovarian and melanoma may respond better to a certain kind of immunotherapy than non-obese patients. Now, researchers from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center have set out to find whether this is also true for obese patients with breast cancer. 

The immunotherapy drug investigated is known as a checkpoint inhibitor. Checkpoint inhibitors work by transferring substances to the body that prevent tumor cells from switching off tumour-fighting cells, and thus allow the immune system to defend itself. 

In 2019 and 2020, two immune checkpoint inhibitors known as atezolizumab (an anti-PD-L1 inhibitor) and pembrolizumab (an anti-PD-1 inhibitor) were approved to treat some patients with triple-negative breast cancer, a highly aggressive form of the disease. 

Obesity can cause many complexities due to its ability to both cause inflammation and activate inflammatory pathways that suppress the immune system. As such, patients with obesity tend to have worse outcomes to breast cancer treatments than non-obese patients. 

For the present study, the researchers set out to find how checkpoint inhibitors could work in obese patients with breast cancer. To do so, they studied models of breast cancer in both obese and lean mice. In doing so, they found that tumors grew at a faster pace among obese mice than in their lean counterparts. 

They also found that anti-PD-1 immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) was able to successfully block obesity-driven progression of cancer. ICB also increased immune cell numbers with anti-tumor immunity and effective anti-tumor markers. These results were reported both in mice both with and without obesity. 

“Importantly, anti-PD-1 therapy had no impact on weight or body composition throughout the study, which rules out confounding effects of therapy-induced weight loss," write the researchers in their paper. 

"This study emphasizes the complexity of examining immunotherapy in immune-competent mice with consideration of the natural variance in weight gain, tumor growth, innate regression, and response to ICB.”

While promising results, the researchers nevertheless say that future studies should match mouse models in tumor size to allow for more controlled comparisons. They also said that their study was limited as it did not examine additional outcomes including survival, recurrence after removal of therapy and metastasis, all of which are critical factors for patient care. 

 

Sources: Medical XpressCell Reports

About the Author
  • Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
MAY 19, 2021
Health & Medicine
Who Ages Better, Men or Women?
MAY 19, 2021
Who Ages Better, Men or Women?
The answer depends on what's considered more important – quantity or quality of years?  Previous studies ...
JUN 01, 2021
Cancer
No level of secondhand smoke is safe for pregnant women
JUN 01, 2021
No level of secondhand smoke is safe for pregnant women
A study published recently in Environmental Health Perspectives concludes that no amount of exposure to secondhand smoke ...
JUN 11, 2021
Cancer
Man beats brain cancer with ketogenic diet
JUN 11, 2021
Man beats brain cancer with ketogenic diet
Glioblastoma brain cancer continues to be one of the most fatal cancers, responsible for approximately 15,000 death ever ...
JUN 15, 2021
Cancer
Red seaweed consumption is associated with a low risk of colon cancer - but why?
JUN 15, 2021
Red seaweed consumption is associated with a low risk of colon cancer - but why?
New research published in Marine Drugs explains why diets high in red seaweed are associated with a low risk of col ...
JUL 12, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Molecule From the Gut Microbiome May Fight Tumors
JUL 12, 2021
A Molecule From the Gut Microbiome May Fight Tumors
The more we learn abut the gut microbiome, the more it seems that the microorganisms in our gastrointestinal tracts can ...
JUL 23, 2021
Cancer
Repurposed Antibiotics Show Promise Against Skin Cancer
JUL 23, 2021
Repurposed Antibiotics Show Promise Against Skin Cancer
In experiments with mice, researchers from the Netherlands have found that some antibiotics may be effective in tre ...
Loading Comments...