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Emerging strategies: PARP inhibitors in combination with immune checkpoint blockade in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation-associated and triple-negative breast cancer

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Poly (adenosine diphosphate-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor monotherapy in germline BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation-associated metastatic breast cancer is a well-tolerated and an effective therapeutic strategy, however, the durability of response can be limited. Checkpoint inhibitors targeting the PD-1/PD-L1 axis as monotherapy in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (mTNBC) have a limited role due to low response rates, but are capable of long, durable responses. Combination PARP inhibition with checkpoint blockade is an emerging area of investigation with potential synergy to produce robust responses with durability. Mechanistically, PARP inhibition activates the stimulator of interferon gene (STING) pathway to promote dendritic cell and T lymphocyte recruitment, increases tumor neoantigens, and upregulates PD-L1 expression to increase the immunogenicity of the tumor and thereby potentially enhance responses to immunotherapy. Several clinical trials have reported early results on PARP inhibitor and PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor combinations. All studies have shown safety and tolerability of this combination regimen. In advanced breast cancer associated with a germline BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, response rates have been high and similar to what is observed with PARP inhibitor monotherapy. Additional follow-up is needed to see if combination with a checkpoint inhibitor can lead to a clinically meaningful extension of durability of response in patients with germline mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2. In unselected mTNBC in the 1st–3rd line setting, response rates of combined PARP inhibitor and PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors have ranged from 18–21%, with higher rates of response among those with alterations in homologous recombination DNA repair pathway genes. Multiple ongoing studies will report additional data on combinations of PARP inhibitors and checkpoint blockade in the future and this combination strategy remains an active area of investigation.

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TG, SV, MT are equal contributors

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Correspondence to Tanya Gupta.

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Conflicts of interest

SV served on the Advisory Board for Oncosec and received institutional funding for clinical trial research from Pfizer, Oncosec, and Seattle Genetics. MT reports research funding (to her institution) from AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Biothera, Calithera, EMD Serono, Genentech, Merck, OncoSec Medical, Pfizer, PharmaMar, Tesaro and Vertex; an advisory role for AbbVie, Aduro, Blueprint Medicines, Celgene, Daiichi Sankyo, Genentech, Immunomedics, Lilly, Merck, Natera, OncoSec and Pfizer and DSMC membership for G1 Therapeutics and Immunomedics.

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Gupta, T., Vinayak, S. & Telli, M. Emerging strategies: PARP inhibitors in combination with immune checkpoint blockade in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation-associated and triple-negative breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat 197, 51–56 (2023).

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