Triple negative breast cancer - prognostic role of immune-related factors: a systematic review

Elisabeth Specht Stovgaard, Dorte Nielsen, Estrid Hogdall, Eva Balslev


PURPOSE: Treatment of breast cancer has been increasingly successful in recent years with the advent of HER2-receptor targeted treatment and endocrine treatment. However, the triple negative subgroup of breast cancer (TNBC) (estrogen-, progesterone- and HER2-receptor negative) still lacks targeted treatment options. TNBC is a type of breast cancer that often affects younger women, and generally has a worse prognosis than other types of breast cancer. Recently, the complex role of the immune system in cancer growth, elimination and metastasis has been the object of increased attention. There is hope that a more detailed understanding of the intricate roles of the constituents of the immune system, will hold potential both as prognostic or predictive markers of cancer progression, but also as treatment targets for a wide range of tumors, including TNBC. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of the cellular immune microenvironment in TNBC, and to highlight areas in which TNBC may differ from other types of breast cancer.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: A search of PubMed was made using the terms 'triple negative breast cancer' and 'tumor infiltrating lymphocytes', 'CD8', 'CD4', 'B cells', 'natural killer cells', 'macrophages', myeloid derived suppressor cells', 'dendritic cells', 'immune check point inhibitor', 'CTLA-4' and 'PD-L1'.

RESULTS: We find that whilst factors such as TILs and certain subgroups of TILs (e.g., CD8 + and regulator T-cells) have been extensively researched, none of these markers are currently applicable to routine clinical practice. Also, TNBC differs from other types of breast cancer with regards to cellular composition of the immune infiltrate and PD-L1 expression, and the prognostic significance of these.

CONCLUSIONS: Immune-related factors have the potential as both prognostic and predictive biomarkers for new treatments targeting the immune system in breast cancer. However, multivariate analyses, taking other well-known factors into account, are required to determine the true value of these biomarkers. Also, differences between TNBC and other types of breast cancer may have implications for treatment and use of immune-related factors as biomarkers.

TidsskriftActa oncologica
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)74-82
Antal sider9
StatusUdgivet - jan. 2018


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