Purpose of review: To review the evidence that correlates tumour infiltrating lymphocytes, a surrogate biomarker of pre-existing host antitumour immunity, and survival in HER2-overexpressing breast cancers. This is of particular relevance to developing immune biomarkers and harnessing new immunotherapeutics in this breast cancer subtype.
Recent findings: Oncogene addiction, in which cancer cells become reliant on a single oncogenic pathway for tumour growth and progression, has traditionally been thought of as a cell intrinsic characteristic. However, increasing evidence from multiple studies exploring the relationship between markers of an antitumour immune response and clinical outcome in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer points to the importance of a permissive microenvironment in oncogene-addicted tumours.
Summary: Characterizing the immune microenvironment in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer has the potential to furnish predictive and prognostic biomarkers that may be useful in routine clinical decision-making. The host-tumour immune interface is emerging as a key aspect of breast cancer biology that is likely to yield novel therapies in the near future.