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New Therapies Show Promise for Breast Cancer Patients

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By Jennifer Litton, M.D., from ASCO 2009


The data from several breast cancer trials presented at ASCO's annual meeting have exciting implications for breast cancer patients.

Litton1a.jpgAs Dr. Kopetz has discussed in his recent blog, the PARP inhibitors is a new class of drug with promising results. In the plenary session, there was a presentation on a PARP-inhibitor drug tested in women with "triple negative" breast cancer (i.e. tested negative for expression of the estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and HER-2/neu). It was given in combination with gemcitabine and carboplatin, and showed not only an improvement in progression-free survival but also overall survival.

A different, oral PARP inhibitor was tested in women with metastatic breast cancer and known deleterious mutations in the BRCA 1 or 2 genes. In this highly specific cohort of women, the agent showed efficacy and was very well tolerated.

Further studies using these very exciting new agents are under way, with Phase III trials being planned.

Additionally, further data regarding the use of bevacizumab in patients with metastatic breast cancer patients was presented with the RIBBON-1 trial. This was a randomized trial looking at the impact of adding bevacizumab to standard metastatic breast cancer chemotherapy regimens.

The study showed improvement in progression-free survival not only with the anthracycline and taxane regimens, but also when added to capecitabine in the first line setting. Further studies looking at its addition in subsequent lines of therapy have accrued and we are awaiting their results.

Other new anti-HER-2 therapies, including trastuzumab-DM-1 as well as other new tyrosine kinases that block the entirety of the HER family of receptors, are showing promising early results with minimal toxicity. Ongoing clinical trials also are accruing.

The ASCO annual meeting highlighted gains in targeted therapies in breast cancer and provided frameworks to build in individualized cancer recurrence assessment and tailored therapies. The continued importance in funding this research, as well as patient participation in clinical trials, will be paramount to pushing these new technologies forward and improving cancer care for our patients.  

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