UK Researchers running a clinical trial have presented some exciting preliminary results at the tenth European Breast Cancer Conference.
The trial analyzed the effects of combining two drugs, trastuzumab and lapatinib, before surgery in women with HER2 positive breast cancer.
When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer it is classified as one of a number of subtypes. One of the subtypes is HER2 positive breast cancer, because the cancer cells have large amount of a molecule called HER2 on their surface.
This means that they are more likely to respond to drugs designed to target this molecule.
These women are often offered treatment based on the stage of their breast cancer, whether they are pre or post-menopausal and their general health.
Following their initial treatment, all women involved in the trial went on to have standard care; including surgery.
After surgery, the researchers analyzed the resulting tissue to see if there was a difference between the various groups. A variety of things were measured including hallmarks of cell death and cell growth and the size of any remaining tumor tissue.
In tissue from seven of the 66 women who had the combination treatment, researchers saw that their tumors were gone.
For another 11 women, the drug combination shrank their tumor considerably.
It is important to remember that while this generally suggests a treatment has worked well, it also means there are still cancer cells remaining from which the disease could grow back.
These results indicate that there’s a group of HER2 positive breast cancer patients who are likely to derive big benefits from receiving trastuzumab and lapatinib. Researchers running the trial think that these same women may not need chemotherapy after surgery.
Researchers will need to continue running clinical trials to see if these women really can avoid chemotherapy treatment and if the current standard of care for some HER2 positive breast cancer patients can and should be changed.