Drug combination taken prior breast cancer surgery delivers amazing results

A significantly important study has unveiled that use of Herceptin in combination with another drug before carrying out surgery may lessen or even kill tumors in women having an aggressive form of breast cancer in less than two weeks.

If the findings of the Cancer Research UK-funded trial are successfully replicated would lead to fewer women needing chemotherapy. In the study, around a quarter of 66 women with HER2 positive breast cancer treated for 11 days with trastuzumab (the generic name for Herceptin) and lapatinib witnessed their tumors to shrink significantly or even disappear.

Prof Nigel Bundred, from the University of Manchester, said, “This has groundbreaking potential because it allows us to identify a group of patients who, within 11 days, have had their tumours disappear with anti-HER2 therapy alone and who potentially may not require subsequent chemotherapy”.

Samia al Qadhi, chief executive at Breast Cancer Care, said that combination of two drugs has the potential to reduce HER-2 positive breast cancer in just 11 days. Samia said that the combination would provide great results for some HER2 positive breast cancer patients and they would be able to avoid chemotherapy and its side effects as well.

On the other hand, if tumors do not shrink with the combination then the doctors would be able to decide on further treatment. It is an early study, but has game changing potential. Current license terms are such that Herceptin can only be used alongside chemotherapy and not alone.

Trial co-leader Prof Judith Bliss from the Institute of Cancer Research, London said that the results were unexpected and lay a strong foundation on which further trials of combination anti-HER2 therapies prior to surgery that could reduce the number of women who need subsequent chemotherapy and also lessen long-term side effects.

In the study, the researchers have studied 257 women with HER2 positive breast cancer. Initially, women were asked either to take trastuzumab or lapatinib or no treatment. But midway when it was noticed that the combination is effective the design was changed and additional women were allocated to the lapatinib group was also prescribed trastuzumab.

According to a report in LompocRecord by Abby Hamblin, “More than 30 breast cancer survivors gathered Wednesday at Mission Hope Cancer Center to not only celebrate their health but also advocate for early breast exams among women. The survivors wore pink and took photos with big smiles, cheering and their arms around each other.”

“I think they’re excited to participate in an event that lets the community know how important it is that mammography should occur before age 50,” said Dr. Monica Rocco, medical director of Mission Hope Breast Care Center.

In a statement provided to OncologyNurseAdvisor News, “Researchers led by Alberto Tagliafico, MD, of the University of Genoa in Italy looked at 3231 mammography-negative screening participants with dense breasts as part of the Adjunct Screening With Tomosynthesis or Ultrasound in Women With Mammography-Negative Dense Breasts prospective, multicenter study.”

Women who underwent tomosynthesis and physician-performed ultrasound with independent interpretation of adjunct imaging were eligible, with outcome measures including cancer detection rate, number of false-positive recalls, and incremental cancer detection rate for each modality.

MedPageToday report added, “In the subgroup of women with treated diabetes, the odds for mixed or dense breast tissue decreased by about 40% as compared with nondiabetic women with mixed/dense breast tissue. The magnitude of reduction was similar for diabetic women who manged the condition by diet or by use of metformin or other oral hypoglycemic agents.”

“Now we would like to extend our research by following up these women for breast cancer and observing the effect of different diabetes treatments on breast cancer risk,” Andersen said in a statement. “If we find a relationship, we need to examine whether a high mammographic density is responsible or whether other factors are involved.”

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