Grants - Translational Grants - North Carolina - Breast - 2018

Carey Anders, M.D. & Ben Vincent, M.D.

First year of this Vintner Grant funded by the 2018 V Foundation Wine Celebration in honor of Robin Lail

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is breast cancer that lacks HER2 and ER/PR receptors. Because most treatments are based on having these markers, TNBC is hard to treat. Additionally, TNBC often spreads to the brain (brain metastasis), which is even harder to treat. Radiation therapy (RT) is a standard local therapy for TNBC brain metastases; however, survival is less than 6 months.

Immune cells (found throughout the body) fight invaders like viruses, bacteria and cancer. However, cancer cells are highly adept at hiding from immune cells. Immunotherapies are being tested to help immune cells fight cancer better. There have been promising results using immunotherapies to treat brain metastases. We have shown that TNBC brain metastases have a higher number of immune cells called tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) compared to TNBC in breasts. More importantly, we found that patients with a higher number of TILs in their brain metastases live longer. Adding RT to immunotherapies can help immune cells to fight cancer. We will use mouse models to test this strategy, which will lead to a clinical trial in humans. We expect immunotherapy will also treat cancer inside and outside of the brain at the same time, which will improve the lives of patients facing this disease. We also want to find more signals in brain metastases (biomarkers) that will guide selection of the right immunotherapy for each patient. New biomarkers will help us treat the right patient, at the right time, in the right way, with immunotherapies.