Women with advanced breast cancer could live longer thanks to two new drugs hailed as offering an “amazing” step forward in treatment, The Telegraph reports.One therapy destroyed 40 per cent of tumours among patients with one of the most deadly forms of cancer – twice as many as those given standard treatment.Experts said that they were hopeful that the treatment would save lives, with signs it could spare one in three breast cancer sufferers from undergoing invasive surgery.
The second combination therapy – which works for the most common type of breast cancer, more than doubled the time tumours were kept at bay.It meant women with advanced disease were able to secure an extra five months before enduring gruelling sessions of chemotherapy.One in four cases of breast cancer is Her2 positive, a type of disease which is particularly aggressive.
When the drug Perjeta was given to such women, in combination with standard treatment, tumours disappeared in 40 per cent of cases, without surgery. Leading specialists said the “terrific results” from a trial of 417 women meant that around one in three of those who would normally undergo breast removal could be spared the surgery. Huge tumours – some as large as 4 inches – were totally destroyed, the experts said.
Until now, the drug had been shown to extend survival for patients with advanced breast cancer, who had already undergone surgery and other treatments. But the new trial showed that giving the drug as an “upfront” treatment as soon as a diagnosis was made “put the brakes” on the disease. Prof David Miles, lead clinician for breast cancer, Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, described the results as “amazing”.
Speaking at the American Society for Clinical Oncology’s annual conference in Chicago, he said: “Knowing that you’ve had a fantastic response in the breast – a terrific response – predicts that these patients are going to do a lot better.” The findings suggest around one in three women who would normally have to undergo total or partial breast removal could be spared surgery, he said.
“When you come to do the surgery you find nothing left,” he said. While survival data has yet to be published, “the hope is we’re going to cure more,” he said. “All the evidence is pointing in the direction that we will see progression-free survival and prolonged survival,” he said. The drug made by Roche costs around £10,000 for a course of treatments, but is not yet licensed for use in the UK as an upfront treatment.
Promising advances in research could mean longer, healthier lives for women with breast cancer, the number one cancer in women worldwide, experts said Saturday at a major US cancer conference. The second drug, palbociclib, made by Pfizer, was tested in women with the most common form of breast cancer, suffered by three in four sufferers. When women with advanced oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer were given the treatment, in combination with a second agent, they were able to double the time before disease advanced.
The findings were so exciting that investigators stopped the trial early, so all women in the study could access the drugs. The combination delayed disease progression for just over nine months, compared to nearly four months in women taking Fulvestrant alone, according to a randomized study of 521 women, most of whom were post-menopausal.
“After initial hormonal therapy stops working in metastatic breast cancer, the next step is typically chemotherapy, which can be effective, but the side effects are often very difficult for women,” said lead study author Nicholas Turner, a consultant medical oncologist at The Royal Marsden and a team leader at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, United Kingdom.
“This relatively easy-to-take new drug can substantially delay the point when women need to start chemotherapy, making this an exciting new approach for women.” Palbociclib works by blocking a key protein that fuels the growth of hormone receptor-positive breast tumors. Researchers said that comparable benefits were seen in both pre- and postmenopausal women, but more long term research is needed to determine whether or not the drug helps women live longer.
Eluned Hughes, Head of Public Health at Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “We’re excited to see new targeted treatments for breast cancer coming through – these breakthroughs could potentially benefit thousands of women in the future. “It’s promising to see a possible new use for Perjeta to treat early breast cancer, however we need a much longer-term follow up in order to understand the full impact.
She also welcomed the findings on palbociclib.
“If approved this new approach could provide women with secondary breast cancer up to five months’ extra time before having to try chemotherapy options,” she said. “These findings prove just how vital research into new targeted treatments is, it’s an exciting time for breast cancer research – we really are on the tipping point of tackling this disease.”
Henry Scowcroft, from Cancer Research UK said: “While neither of these drugs can cure breast cancer, they could offer extra options for doctors looking after women with advanced disease. However, while these trial results are encouraging, it remains to be seen whether the drugs are cost-effective enough to be offered routinely on the NHS.”