‘Astonishing’ breast cancer breakthrough destroys tumours

11 Mar 2016

A clinical research trial into breast cancer treatments has made what is being described as an ‘astonishing’ breakthrough as a combination of two drugs is shown to shrink or disappear tumours in almost 25pc of patients.

As we mark Daffodil Day today (11 March), the recent breast cancer breakthrough made by a Cancer Research UK-funded trial seems almost too simple in its solution to treat one of the five most common cancers affecting Irish people.

According to The Guardian, the trial findings were presented at the recent European Breast Cancer Conference in the Netherlands, where researchers revealed that by combining two readily available cancer drugs, almost one-quarter of the 66 patients who received both drugs saw their tumours reduced significantly, or even vanish, in as little as 11 days.

The trial itself was looking into the treatment of women who are HER2 positive, meaning that their form of breast cancer is more likely to return once a tumour is removed, so generally has to also be treated by medication and chemotherapy.

So, with this in mind, the team of researchers performing the trial used a combination of the drugs trastuzumab and lapatinib, and its findings were described as ‘astonishing’ by the chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, Samia al Qadhi.

Potentially no need for chemotherapy

257 women who were recently diagnosed with HER2 breast cancer, but who had yet to undergo surgery, were involved in the study.

Speaking of her research as co-lead on the trial, Prof Judith Bliss of the Institute of Cancer Research London said this discovery is hugely promising for rapid early treatment, potentially bypassing the need for chemotherapy altogether.

“It was unexpected to see quite such dramatic responses to the trastuzumab and lapatinib within 11 days,” she said.

“Our results are a strong foundation on which to build further trials of combination anti-HER2 therapies prior to surgery – which could reduce the number of women who require subsequent chemotherapy, which is also very effective but can lead to long-term side effects.”

Woman undergoing mammography test image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic