Immunotherapy in HER2-positive breast cancer: State of the art and future perspectives

E. Krasniqi, G. Barchiesi, L. Pizzuti, M. Mazzotta, A. Venuti, M. Maugeri-Saccà, G. Sanguineti, G. Massimiani, D. Sergi, S. Carpano, P. Marchetti, S. Tomao, T. Gamucci, R. De Maria, F. Tomao, C. Natoli, N. Tinari, G. Ciliberto, M. Barba, P. Vici

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Breast cancer (BC) is a complex disease with primary or acquired incurability characteristics in a significant part of patients. Immunotherapeutical agents represent an emerging option for breast cancer treatment, including the human epidermal growth factor 2 positive (HER2+) subtype. The immune system holds the ability to spontaneously implement a defensive response against HER2+ BC cells through complex mechanisms which can be exploited to modulate this response for obtaining a clinical benefit. Initial immune system modulating strategies consisted mostly in vaccine therapies, which are still being investigated and improved. However, the entrance of trastuzumab into the scenery of HER2+ BC treatment was the real game changing event, which embodied a dominant immune-mediated mechanism. More recently, the advent of the immune checkpoint inhibitors has caused a new paradigm shift for immuno-oncology, with promising initial results also for HER2+ BC. Breast cancer has been traditionally considered poorly immunogenic, being characterized by relatively low tumor mutation burden (TMB). Nevertheless, recent evidence has revealed high tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and programmed cell death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression in a considerable proportion of HER2+ BC patients. This may translate into a higher potential to elicit anti-cancer response and, therefore, wider possibilities for the use and implementation of immunotherapy in this subset of BC patients. We are herein presenting and critically discussing the most representative evidence concerning immunotherapy in HER2+ BC cancer, both singularly and in combination with therapeutic agents acting throughout HER2-block, immune checkpoint inhibition and anti-cancer vaccines. The reader will be also provided with hints concerning potential future projection of the most promising immutherapeutic agents and approaches for the disease of interest.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111
JournalJournal of Hematology and Oncology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 29 2019


  • Breast cancer
  • Early
  • HER2+
  • Immunotherapy
  • Metastatic
  • Vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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