What are immunotherapy drugs?
Immunotherapy drugs help your body’s immune system attack cancer cells.
Certain immunotherapy drugs are helpful in treating some breast cancers.
There are many types of immunotherapy drugs.
Learn about immunotherapy and metastatic breast cancer treatment.
Checkpoint inhibitors are the most widely used type of immunotherapy drugs. These drugs “take the brakes off” the natural factors that limit how the immune system can control cancer cells.
Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and early breast cancer
Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) is a checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy drug. Pembrolizumab is FDA-approved for the treatment of early triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) at high risk of recurrence (a return of breast cancer).
Pembrolizumab is given before breast surgery (called neoadjuvant therapy), along with chemotherapy. Studies show adding pembrolizumab to neoadjuvant chemotherapy helps shrink TNBC during neoadjuvant therapy and may lower the risk of breast cancer recurrence [149-150].
If you’ve been diagnosed with early TNBC, talk with your health care provider about whether pembrolizumab is an option for you.
Other checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy drugs are under study for use in early breast cancer treatment.
Learn more about triple negative breast cancer.
For a summary of research studies on pemobrolizumab and early breast cancer treatment, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
How is pembrolizumab given?
Pembrolizumab is given by vein (through an IV) every 3 or every 6 weeks for up to one year. You may get a smaller dose once every 3 weeks or a larger dose once every 6 weeks.
Since pembrolizumab is given over a long period of time, if you have neoadjuvant pembrolizumab, you won’t get all the pembrolizumab before surgery. You’ll get some pembrolizumab before surgery and some after surgery.
Pembrolizumab can be given on the same day as chemotherapy.
Learn more about neoadjuvant therapy.
Side effects of pembrolizumab
Pembrolizumab can cause colitis (inflammation of the intestines), liver problems and hormone gland problems.
In rare cases, it can cause lung inflammation, which can lead to death. Tell your health care provider right away if you have shortness of breath or other breathing problems while taking this drug.
Adapted from select source .
Before you begin treatment with pembrolizumab, talk with your health care provider about possible side effects and how to manage them.
Pembrolizumab and metastatic breast cancer treatment
Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) is a checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy drug FDA-approved for the treatment of some metastatic breast cancers.
Learn more about pembrolizumab and metastatic breast cancer treatment.
Vaccines are a type of immunotherapy. Like vaccines that protect against the flu or measles, cancer vaccines are designed to build up the body’s immunity against disease.
Breast cancer vaccines are still in the early stages of development.
Learn about clinical trials.
Although the exact treatment for breast cancer varies from person to person, evidence-based guidelines help ensure high-quality care. These guidelines are based on the latest research and agreement among experts.
In addition, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has treatment overviews.
Talk with your health care team about which treatment guidelines they use.
After you get a recommended treatment plan from your health care team, study your treatment options. Together with your health care team, make thoughtful, informed decisions that are best for you. Each treatment option has risks and benefits to consider along with your own values and lifestyle.
Research is ongoing to improve all areas of treatment for breast cancer.
New therapies are being studied in clinical trials. The results of these studies will decide whether these therapies become part of the standard of care.
After discussing the benefits and risks with your health care provider, we encourage you to consider joining a clinical trial.
Susan G. Komen® Breast Care Helpline
Se habla español.
BreastCancerTrials.org in collaboration with Komen offers a custom matching service to help find clinical trials that fit your needs.
Learn more about clinical trials.
Read our perspective on clinical trials.*
Costs related to metastatic breast cancer care can quickly become a financial burden. Dealing with finances and insurance can be overwhelming.
Many cancer centers have patient financial counselors who can discuss insurance and cost coverage with you.
Learn more about other financial assistance programs.
Komen Financial Assistance Program
Susan G. Komen® created the Komen Financial Assistance Program to help those struggling with the costs of breast cancer treatment by providing financial assistance to eligible individuals.
Funding is available for eligible individuals undergoing breast cancer treatment at any stage or living with metastatic breast cancer (stage 4).
Se habla español.
Susan G. Komen® Support Resources
*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date.