Breast cancer: Potential new treatment for aggressive form of the cancer
BREAST cancer sufferers may be twice as likely to benefit from a drug used to treat ovarian cancer, says a groundbreaking study out today set to change international clinical guidelines.
Published in the journal Nature Medicine, the investigation found that 68 per cent of women that have triple negative breast cancer with an inherited genetic mutation, saw a reduction in tumour size when given the drug carboplatin.This compared with a 33 per cent reduction when given docetaxel, the drug normally used to treat the cancer.Triple negative breast cancer is the deadliest type of the disease, making up 15 per cent of all cases diagnosed. Currently, there are no effective treatment options for sufferers.The major study, which followed 376 patients through their treatment, is set to “change international clinical practice guidelines”, according to the Institute of Cancer Research.Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Clinician, said: “This exciting study brings us a step closer to delivering precise care to patients with breast cancer.
“Rather than offering all women the same standard of care, these results show that, for patients with inherited BRCA mutations, the drug carboplatin is not only a more effective treatment option, but also comes with fewer side-effects, sparing patients possible health problems, physical discomfort and emotional distress.”
Professor Andrew Tutt, Professor of Breast Oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Our study has found that women with triple-negative breast cancer who have BRCA1 or 2 mutations are twice as likely to respond to carboplatin as they are to standard treatment.
“It strongly suggests that many women with triple-negative breast cancer should be considered for testing for faults in the BRCA genes so those who test positive can benefit from carboplatin.
“Using this simple test enables us to guide treatment for women within this type of breast cancer. I am keen for these findings to be brought into the clinic as soon as possible.
“This is a great example of using personalised genetics to repurpose a chemotherapy drug into a targeted treatment, by understanding that its DNA-damaging effects might be particularly effective against cancer cells with deficiencies in DNA repair in appropriately selected patients.”
Professor Judith Bliss, Director of the Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, who led the management of the study, said: “Women with triple-negative breast cancer often only survive for one to two years after the cancer has relapsed and spread to other parts of the body so there is an urgent need to find alternative treatments for this group of patients.
“Our study has shown that this doesn’t have to mean developing new drugs. We can use existing – and often cheaper, generic – drugs more effectively by targeting treatment based on weaknesses in individual patients’ tumours.”
Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Clinician, said: “This exciting study brings us a step closer to delivering precise care to patients with breast cancer.
“Rather than offering all women the same standard of care, these results show that, for patients with inherited BRCA mutations, the drug carboplatin is not only a more effective treatment option, but also comes with fewer side-effects, sparing patients possible health problems, physical discomfort and emotional distress.
“The progress we’ve made treating breast cancer has been phenomenal, and now we’re working to optimise treatments, so that we can give every patient the best chance of beating their cancer.”
Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, which co-funded the trial, said: “This is a landmark and long-awaited step forward for women with incurable and aggressive breast cancers who carry BRCA mutations – who until now have had no targeted options to rely on.
“While a cornerstone treatment, chemotherapy can be a blunt tool for many, with side-effects that can be difficult to cope with.
“It is fantastic news that carboplatin will now offer a more effective, kinder and targeted treatment to a group of patients who have long been in need of new hope. For those living with the impossible reality of incurable cancer, these precious extra months of better quality life before their condition worsens could mean absolutely everything.
“We hope future studies will now uncover whether this advance could benefit patients with early breast cancer too.
“We must now make sure this breakthrough reaches ‘triple negative’ patients that could benefit as quickly as possible. We urge NICE to include carboplatin in their guidelines on advanced breast cancer swiftly and NHS England to consider issuing commissioning advice to help ensure its routine adoption for these patients.”