A new combination of two proven breast cancer drugs has either eradicated tumours or shrunk them to ‘barely visible size’ in just 11 days.
Doctors in Manchester gave a combination of trastuzumab and lapatinib to 257 women and within 11 days in 11% of the women, the tumours were not detected. In a further 17% of the women, their tumours had shrunk so much the cancers were ‘barely visible’.
Delegates at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Amsterdam heard that the combination of these drugs, which both target the protein HER2 that encourages the growth of tumours in some women, might mean that some patients may not need to go through gruelling chemotherapy.
Trastuzumab works on the surface of cancer cells while lapitinib penetrates the cells to disable HER2. Professor Judith Bliss of the Institute of Cancer Research in London described the effect of the combined drugs as ‘dramatic’. Longer trials will be needed to verify the findings, since HER2-positive cancers carry a higher risk of recurrence.
The trial was funded by Cancer Research UK where a spokesman said the drug combination technique could open up new forms of combating HER2-positive tumours.
It would also be cheaper for the NHS. An 11-day course of the two drugs costs just £1,500 per patient.
Meanwhile, researchers at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam have found that men with breast cancer cannot be effectively measured by female breast cancer markers but instead should be assessed on a measure of fibrotic tissue and white blood cell type.
They say the sexes need to be treated differently and that current treatment regimes for men should be reviewed. Around 400 men develop breast cancers every year in the UK.
Sources: The Times; BBC News.