Immunotherapy for Breast Cancer

The purpose of immunotherapy in breast cancer is to remove the cancer cells or control the growth of the cancer cells by restoring the natural function of the immune cells, T cells are stimulated and strengthened in vitro, so that after being introduced back to patient’s body, they will be able to identify the breast cancer cells and destroy them.

Proteins such as Her2/neu, CEA, MUC-1, MAGE-A3 and a few others are presented on the surface of the breast cancer cells, they are recognized by the immune system as ‘foreign’ to the human body, and are supposed to be destroyed by the T cells in the immune system. However, immune system is failed in identifying these proteins in patients with breast cancer, causing uncontrolled growth of the breast cancer cells.

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a kind of cancer that develops from breast cells. Breast cancer usually starts off in the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply them with milk. A malignant tumor can spread to other parts of the body. A breast cancer that started off in the lobules is known as lobular carcinoma, while one that developed from the ducts is called ductal carcinoma.

The vast majority of breast cancer cases occur in females. It is the most common invasive cancer in females worldwide. It accounts for 16% of all female cancers and 22.9% of invasive cancers in women. 18.2% of all cancer deaths worldwide, including both males and females, are from breast cancer.

Breast cancer rates are much higher in developed nations compared to developing ones. There are several reasons for this, with possibly life-expectancy being one of the key factors – breast cancer is more common in elderly women; women in the richest countries live much longer than those in the poorest nations. The different lifestyles and eating habits of females in rich and poor countries are also contributory factors, experts believe.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer may include:

  • A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
  • Bloody discharge from the nipple
  • Change in the size or shape of a breast
  • Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
  • Inverted nipple
  • Peeling, scaling or flaking of the nipple or breast skin
  • Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange

Causes

It’s not clear what causes breast cancer. Doctors know that breast cancer occurs when some breast cells begin growing abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do. The accumulating cells form a tumor that may spread (metastasize) through your breast, to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body.

Breast cancer most often begins with cells in the milk-producing ducts. Doctors call this type of breast cancer invasive ductal carcinoma. Breast cancer may also begin in the milk glands known as lobules (invasive lobular carcinoma) within the breast.

Researchers have identified things that can increase your risk of breast cancer. But it’s not clear why some people who have no risk factors develop cancer, yet other people with risk factors never do. It’s likely that breast cancer is caused by a complex interaction of your genetic makeup and your environment.

Inherited breast cancer
Doctors estimate that only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations passed through generations of a family. A number of inherited defective genes that can increase the likelihood of breast cancer have been identified. The most common are breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2), both of which increase the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.

If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or other cancers, blood tests may help identify defective BRCA or other genes that are being passed through your family. Consider asking your doctor for a referral to a genetic counselor, who can review your family health history. A genetic counselor can also discuss the benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing with you. It’s important to remember that the genetic tests help to identify a high-risk individual or family, but they don’t definitively predict who will or will not get breast cancer.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that makes it more likely you’ll get a particular disease. But having one or even several risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop cancer — many women who develop breast cancer have no known risk factors other than simply being women.

Factors that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include:

Being female. Women are much more likely than men are to develop breast cancer.

Increasing age. Your risk of breast cancer increases as you age. Women older than 55 have a greater risk than do younger women.

A personal history of breast cancer. If you’ve had breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.

A family history of breast cancer. If you have a mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer, you have a greater chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Still, the majority of people diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.

Inherited genes that increase cancer risk. Certain gene mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer can be passed from parents to children. The most common gene mutations are referred to as BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes can greatly increase your risk of breast cancer and other cancers, but they don’t make cancer inevitable.

Radiation exposure. If you received radiation treatments to your chest as a child or young adult, you’re more likely to develop breast cancer later in life.

Obesity. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of breast cancer because fat tissue produces estrogen that may help fuel certain cancers.

Beginning your period at a younger age. Beginning your period before age 12 increases your risk of breast cancer.

Beginning menopause at an older age. If you began menopause after age 55, you’re more likely to develop breast cancer.

Having your first child at an older age. Women who give birth to their first child after age 35 may have an increased risk of breast cancer.

Postmenopausal hormone therapy. Women who take hormone therapy medications that combine estrogen and progesterone to treat the signs and symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer.

Drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer. Experts recommend no more than one alcoholic beverage a day for women.

Other risk factors that have been suggested, but don’t play any role in the development of breast cancer include tight fitting bras, antiperspirants, breast implants and shift work.

Although the majority of breast changes don’t turn out to be cancer, it’s important to have a medical evaluation first to check for other causes of your diseases and suggest treatments that can help. Even if you’ve just had a mammogram with normal results, it’s still important to have evaluate any changes.