Chemotherapy isn't always necessary for aggressive breast cancer thanks to your immune system · Health & Science

Where does this news come from?

In Belgium, approximately 11,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Most breast cancers are sensitive to hormones, but a minority, about 15%, are not. Those are the so-called Triple negative breast cancers.

  • These breast cancers often grow faster and spread faster than hormone-sensitive breast cancers.
  • That's why they become More aggressive The name of the thing.
  • the to treat Triple negative breast cancer usually consists of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.
    • Of all the treatments, chemotherapy is often the most uncomfortable, due to side effects such as hair loss, nausea and vomiting.

According to research conducted by Roberto Salgado, a doctor and researcher who works in the hospital In the stream In Antwerp, it can 27% of individuals with triple-negative breast cancer without chemotherapy. That's because they are They have strong enough immune cells Which attacks cancer cells and prevents their recurrence.

  • He made this statement in Antwerp newspaper On April 19: 27% of patients have a very high chance of survival even without chemotherapy and only a small chance of recurrence. Our research shows that more than 96% of them have not relapsed 5 years after surgery (1).”
  • Salgado is part of an international research group that studied this in 1,966 women with triple-negative breast cancer. The researchers compared microscopic examinations of breast cancer tissue from all of these women. In cancerous tissues in which there are many of a certain type of immune cell, chemotherapy has not really provided any added value.

(1) Van Wynsberghe E. 1 in 4 women with aggressive breast cancer do not need chemotherapy: 'Their immune system is able to fight the cancer.' Antwerp newspaper. April 19, 2024.

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How should you interpret this news?

In triple-negative breast cancer that occurs in Find out early Chemotherapy is considered, but certainly not always given if doctors do not consider it necessary.

The research group, to which Roberto Salgado belongs, collected medical data from 1,966 women. she

  • Their average age was 56 years;
  • You have triple-negative breast cancer that was detected early (stage I and no lymph nodes involved);
  • They did not receive chemotherapy, but only surgery and radiation (2).

The researchers also had information about all of these women Accurate data on breast cancer tissue removed. After removal, this tissue always goes to the laboratory, where researchers examine it under a microscope.

  • During this microscopic examination, it is noted that breast cancer tissue sometimes contains many immune cells and sometimes does not contain them.
  • For women with a lot of Immune cells in breast cancer tissuewas it It is clear that the risk of recurrence after 5 years of follow-up is much lower Compared to women who had fewer immune cells in the resected tissue: more than 90% versus 72%.

The researchers concluded that in women with early-stage triple-negative breast cancer, where there are many immune cells in the removed breast cancer tissue, chemotherapy is not necessary, because survival is very high without this treatment. This study concerns about 1 in 4 women.


The news deserves some nuance: it concerns only women in whom the rare triple-negative breast cancer was discovered at an early stage, in which the lymph nodes in the armpit are not affected and there are no metastases. Doctors do not systematically administer chemotherapy to this specific group. What's new about this research is that scientists can better predict survival chances based on microscopic examination of the number of immune cells in the removed cancerous tissue. For 1 in 4 women in this group, there are too many immune cells in the removed tumor, making their chances of survival without chemotherapy very good.

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(2) Leon-Ferre RA, Jonas SF, Salgado R, et al. Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in triple-negative breast cancer. Gamma. 2024;331(13):1135-1144. doi:10.1001/jama.2024.3056

Megan Vasquez

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