New Immune and DNA Targeted Therapies for Advanced Breast Cancer Studied at Norwalk Hospital

Danbury Hospital

Norwalk Hospital, part of the Western Connecticut Health Network, has recently opened two important clinical research trials for women with advanced (stage IV) breast cancer.  The first trial will test whether an anti-PDL1 antibody can improve the effects of chemotherapy for women with “triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC)” The anti-PDL1 antibody targets a patient’s immune system so that it can recognize cancer cells and attack them.

According to Richard Zelkowitz, MD, Medical Director of the Smilow Family Breast Health Center at Norwalk Hospital, “Women with triple-negative breast cancer cannot be treated with hormonal therapies or anti-Her2 directed therapies such as the drug Herceptin. The only treatment available to them is chemotherapy. That is until now. The anti-PDL1 antibody unlocks the brakes on a patient’s immune system and has been very effective in a number of other cancers. We certainly hope it improves the treatment of women with TNBC.”

The second trial is aimed at women who have inherited the BRCA genetic mutation (that predisposes to breast and ovarian cancer) and have developed stage IV breast cancer. The trial will test if a new “PARP inhibitor” drug can improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy to treat the disease. A mutation in the BRCA1 or 2 genes leads to defects in DNA repair, which predisposes carriers to breast, ovarian and other cancers. According to George Zahrah, MD, Director of Genetics at Norwalk Hospital, “PARP inhibitors have been approved for patients with the BRCA mutation who develop ovarian cancer, so we hope they will also be effective against breast cancer caused by the same genetic defect.”

To learn more about these and other cancer research studies at the Western Connecticut Health Network, contact Jennifer Long, APRN at 203-852-2996.

About Norwalk Hospital

Norwalk Hospital is a progressive, patient-centered regional teaching hospital serving residents of southwestern Connecticut and adjacent New York.  The 328-bed acute care, not-for-profit hospital offers Cardiovascular, Cancer, Orthopedic, Neurologic and Digestive Disease care with advanced diagnostics, innovative therapies and state-of-the-art surgery. The hospital is supported by its very generous community through donations to the Norwalk Hospital Foundation. Norwalk Hospital is now part of the Western Connecticut Health Network and one of the Network’s three member hospitals including Danbury Hospital and New Milford Hospital, as well as their physician groups and affiliated organizations. Share your comments with us at

About Western Connecticut Health Network

Western Connecticut Health Network is the region's premier, patient-centered health care organization serving residents of Western Connecticut and adjacent New York. The organization, which is now anchored by three nationally recognized hospitals, Danbury Hospital, New Milford Hospital and Norwalk Hospital, as well as their affiliated organizations. In addition to the three hospitals, the continuum of care offered includes Western Connecticut Medical Group, an integrated physician practice offering primary and subspecialty care across the region, Western Connecticut Home Care, an agency for home health care services, the nationally renowned Western Connecticut Health Network Biomedical Research Institute, the Western Connecticut Health Network Foundation, the Norwalk Hospital Foundation, and other affiliates. For more information, visit Share your comments with us at; and/or