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A data-driven approach to metastatic triple negative breast cancer

Why This Research

Metastatic triple negative breast cancer (mTNBC) is aggressive, tough-to-treat and often fatal. Many patients survive only 15 to 18 months after diagnosis.

In March 2019, there was a breakthrough. The FDA approved the first immunotherapy treatment combination for the cancer. Research from the IMpassion130 study had demonstrated that combining the checkpoint inhibitor atezolizumab and the chemotherapy nab-paclitaxel helped some women and men live longer. The study was the first positive phase III immunotherapy trial in breast cancer.

While this was an improvement for some patients, the majority still saw their cancers later progress.

PICI wants to know why.

Why does the treatment work for some patients and not others? What else can we give patients who don’t respond to this treatment? The TRIBUTE study aims to understand the biology of the disease and the treatment regimen at a deep level to give scientists a leg-up on further research and future clinical trials.

What We’re Doing

To build on the emerging data, PICI quickly joined forces with Cancer Research Institute and Breast Cancer Research Foundation to host a think tank, bringing together a constellation of breast cancer experts across academia, industry and nonprofits.

The team narrowed in on the most pressing scientific questions in breast cancer. This created the basis for TRIBUTE (Translational Resource for Immuno-Biology to Understand Therapeutic Efficacy) – a research study to identify biomarkers that can tell us more about who will benefit from immunotherapy and inform alternative treatments. We kicked off the study in January 2020.

Using the PICI BioTrust, our sample repository and assay suite, PICI is gathering clinical data and tissue, blood and stool samples from patients before and during their treatment. Then, we will comprehensively analyze the samples and data to shed light on the immune system and tumor’s response. The hope is to unearth clues that could improve outcomes for more patients, for example, by adjusting the timing and combinations of the immunotherapy treatment or adding an additional therapy that might create a stronger immune response.

While the study is focused on mTNBC, one of the deadliest breast cancers, learning more about biomarkers could help more patients with all types of breast cancer benefit from immunotherapy.



Meet the scientists and clinicians leading the charge:

  • Cheryl Selinsky, PhD | PICI VP, Research Operations


  • Beth Mittendorf, MD, PhD – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • Sara M. Tolaney, MD, MPH – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • Rita Nanda, MD – University of Chicago
  • George Plitas, MD – Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Angie DeMichele MD, MSCE – University of Pennsylvania
  • Heather McArthur, MD, MPH – Cedars-Sinai Medical Center