Breast cancer drug hope for women with Angelina gene
Lorraine: Elizabeth Hurley discusses breast cancer awareness
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Using the drug olaparib after initial treatment and chemotherapy slashed the risk of cancer returning or spreading by 42 percent. The discovery could lead to more women being cured of high-risk breast cancer after early diagnosis. Dr Simon Vincent, director of research, support and influencing at charity Breast Cancer Now, said: “It’s extremely exciting.
“Olaparib must now be promptly submitted for licensing, and then assessed for use on the NHS, so that women with this type of breast cancer start to benefit.”
The BRCA genes play a role in repairing DNA damage.
In people who carry mutations, mistakes can build up in the DNA, increasing the risk of a cell becoming cancerous. Actress Angelina underwent a double mastectomy in 2013 after discovering she carried a “faulty” BRCA1 gene.
She later had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed too.
Olaparib is already used to treat some types of ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer.
It is a type of drug known as a PARP inhibitor and works by disrupting another DNA repair pathway, causing cancerous cells to die.
The international OlympiA trial, involving almost 2,000 patients, is the first to report on olaparib’s ability to stop breast cancer returning when used at an early stage.
After three years, 86 percent of patients treated with the drug were alive and free of invasive breast cancer and second cancers, compared to 77 percent of those who received the usual care and a placebo dose.
Study co-leader Prof Andrew Tutt, of the Institute of Cancer Research and King’s College London, said: “Women with early-stage breast cancer who have inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations are typically diagnosed at a younger age.
“Up to now, there has been no treatment that specifically targets the unique biology of these cancers to reduce the rate of recurrence, beyond initial treatment such as surgery, hormone treatment, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.”
He estimated that around 1,000 women could benefit from treatment each year in the UK and hundreds of thousands worldwide.
Prof Paul Workman, chief executive of the institute, said: “This is a major breakthrough.”
The findings were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting and published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Breast Cancer Now’s free helpline is 0808 800 6000.
Caroline Wheeldon discovered she carries a BRCA2 mutation after finishing treatment for early breast cancer.
She was diagnosed with stage one triple negative breast cancer in 2019 after pains alerted her to a lump.
Caroline, 40, said: “When I found out I had cancer, my world fell apart.
“I knew straight away that I wanted to have a double mastectomy to reduce my risk of it returning.”
She had a unilateral mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. Due to her age and cancer type, she also underwent genetic testing which revealed she had the BRCA2 mutation, greatly increasing her risk of certain cancers.
She was the first person in her family to have had cancer. But her 70-year-old mother has been discovered to be a carrier of the mutation.
She had a second mastectomy in August last year and had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed in December 2020. Caroline lives in Barnsley with her husband and two children, Aleisha, 11, and Leo, nine.
She said today’s breakthrough gave her hope that better treatments will be available in the future.
She said: “It’s so reassuring to know about the possibility of this new treatment.
“I’m really pleased that it might be available by the time my children are grown up, and to help anyone who’s diagnosed in the future.”
A drug that acts “like a guided missile” to target prostate cancer can extend the lives of men with advanced disease, a study suggests.
The treatment detects the presence of a molecule called prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) on the surface of tumour cells, before delivering a dose of radiation to kill them.
The “seek and destroy” method can shrink tumours while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
An international trial involved 831 patients with advanced prostate cancer, meaning it had spread to other parts of the body.
Those treated with the drug typically survived for 15.3 months compared with 11.3 for those who received standard care alone.
It also extended the average time that passed before patients’ cancers got worse from 3.4 months to 8.7 months.
It is estimated that between a third and half of the 10,000 men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer each year have tumours with high levels of PSMA and could benefit.
Study co-author Professor Johann de Bono, of The Institute of Cancer Research in London, said: “I believe that these results can change the standard of care for some men with advanced prostate cancer.”
Dr Matthew Hobbs, at Prostate Cancer UK, said the results were “hugely exciting”.
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