Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Triple Negative Breast Cancer: The Search for the Optimal Biomarker

Sadaf Qureshi, Nancy Chan, Mridula George, Shridar Ganesan, Deborah Toppmeyer, Coral Omene

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a high-risk and aggressive malignancy characterized by the absence of estrogen receptors (ER) and progesterone receptors (PR) on the surface of malignant cells, and by the lack of overexpression of human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2). It has limited therapeutic options compared to other subtypes of breast cancer. There is now a growing body of evidence on the role of immunotherapy in TNBC, however much of the data from clinical trials is conflicting and thus, challenging for clinicians to integrate the data into clinical practice. Landmark phase III trials using immunotherapy in the early-stage neoadjuvant setting concluded that the addition of immunotherapy to chemotherapy improved the pathologic complete response (pCR) rate compared to chemotherapy with placebo while others found no significant improvement in pCR. Phase III trials have investigated the utility of immunotherapy in previously untreated metastatic TNBC, and these studies have similarly arrived at inconsistent conclusions. Some studies showed no benefit while others demonstrated a clinically significant improvement in overall survival in the PD-L1 positive population. It is not yet clear which biomarkers are most useful, and assays for these biomarkers have not been standardized. Given the often serious and severe side effects of immunotherapy, it is important and necessary to identify predictive biomarkers of response and resistance in order to enhance patient selection. In this review, we will discuss both the challenges of traditional biomarkers and the opportunities of emerging biomarkers for patient selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBiomarker Insights
StatePublished - Feb 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Biochemistry, medical


  • Immunotherapy
  • PD-L1
  • cell-free DNA
  • endogenous retroviruses
  • immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • microbiome
  • mismatch repair
  • triple negative breast cancer
  • tumor infiltrating lymphocytes
  • tumor mutational burden


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