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University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center researchers have conducted a phase II clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of pembrolizumab maintenance therapy, a type of immunotherapy in aggressive forms of breast cancer. The study aims to determine if it could offer a less toxic and more targeted alternative to traditional chemotherapy, thus improving patients’ quality of life.

The trial was led by Naoto T. Ueno, UH Cancer Center director, and Toshiaki Iwase, assistant professor and medical director, and was conducted at their former institution, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The study produced significant findings that were recently published in Clinical Cancer Research.

“Undergoing pembrolizumab maintenance therapy made a huge difference in my cancer treatment,” said Deborah Sumulong, a cancer patient who underwent chemotherapy and struggled with allergic reactions, as well as hair loss and lingering fatigue. “I experienced less fatigue; the only side effect was mild colitis (colon inflammation). My scans also showed the cancer declined, with the recent one showing it was completely gone.”

“While the findings are promising, further research, including a large prospective clinical trial, is necessary to validate the identified biomarkers and refine patient selection criteria for pembrolizumab therapy,” said Iwase.

Read more on the UH Cancer Center website.

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