Cancer breakthrough? Drug combo eradicated breast cancer tumors in 11 days


A cancer drug duo could one day eliminate the need for chemotherapy for women with HER2-positive breast cancer; in a new study, a combination of two drugs was found to completely eradicate or significantly shrink breast cancer tumors within 11 days of diagnosis.
Women with HER2-positive breast cancer saw a complete eradication or significant reduction in tumors when treated with both trastuzumab and lapatinib. Lead researcher Prof. Judith Bliss, of the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in the UK, and colleagues recently presented the results of their EPHOS B Trial at 10th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-10) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the US. It is estimated that 1 in 8 American women will be diagnosed with an invasive form of the disease at some point in their lives.
According to the American Cancer Society, around 1 in 5 breast cancers are human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive, or HER2-positive. This means the cancer tumors have too many copies of the HER2 gene, resulting in excess production of the HER2 protein.
Compared with other breast cancers, HER2-positive breast cancers tend to spread faster and more aggressively, and patients with this type of cancer are more likely to experience recurrence following treatment.
Current treatments for HER2-positive breast cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. There are also drugs available that target and block the HER2 receptors on breast cancer cells, such as trastuzumab (brand name Herceptin), which is the most common medication for HER2-positive breast cancer.
In recent years, new anti-HER2 drugs have entered the market, including lapatinib (brand name Tyverb or Tykerb), though this drug is currently only used to treat advanced HER2-positive breast cancer.
For their study, Prof. Bliss and colleagues set out to investigate how trastuzumab and lapatinib affected HER2-positive breast cancer tumors in the short window between diagnosis and surgery.
There are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the US. The team enrolled 257 women who had been diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer and allocated them to one of three treatment groups for the 11 days between diagnosis and surgery; one group received trastuzumab, one group received lapatinib and the final group received no treatment, representing the control group.
However, previous research has suggested that a combination of trastuzumab and lapatinib may be effective against HER2-positive breast cancer.

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