A combination of breast cancer drugs administered before surgery could drastically shrink particular tumors within days – and potentially eliminate the need for chemotherapy in some patients, according to British researchers.
Herceptin (trastuzumab) in concert with lapatinib on tumors that are HER-2 positive can shrink or even destroy tumors within just 11 days before surgery, according to The Institute of Cancer Research in London.
Some 20 percent of all breast cancers are HER-2 positive, according to analysis by the Mayo Clinic.
The theory was the two drugs would work as a one-two punch: the Herceptin would block the HER-2 proteins on which the tumors rely, and then the lapatinib would inhibit other enzymes that may potentially remain unaffected by the other drug.
The study observed the tumor size in 257 women in the days-long window between diagnosis and removal of the tumors.
The participants were initially split up into three groups – one each getting one of the drugs, and a third getting no treatment for the 11 days before the surgery, according to the scientists.
However, other trials had indicated the drug combination could have a dramatic effect, so additional women were put in the lapatinib group and also given the Herceptin.
Roughly a quarter of the 66 women who got both drugs had tumors that were too small for the second measurement before surgery, they found.
“Our trial set out to try to use the window between diagnosis and surgery to find clues that combined treatment with (Herceptin) and lapatinib was having a biological effect on HER-2 positive tumors,” said Judith Bliss, director of the Cancer Research Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit at the Institute of Cancer Research. “So it was unexpected to see quite such dramatic responses to the (Herceptin) and lapatinib within 11 days.”
The results were presented at the European Breast Cancer Conference on Thursday.
“These results are very promising if they stand up in the long run and could be the starting step of finding a new way to treat HER-2 positive breast cancers,” said Arnie Purushotham, senior clinical adviser at Cancer Research UK.
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Filed Under: Drug Discovery