Thursday 29 September 2016

Drug trial offers new hope to women suffering aggressive breast cancer

Published 27/06/2016 | 02:30

A group of women with an aggressive form of advanced breast cancer, which is no longer responding to standard treatment, are to undergo a new €750,000 drugs trial. Stock photo
A group of women with an aggressive form of advanced breast cancer, which is no longer responding to standard treatment, are to undergo a new €750,000 drugs trial. Stock photo

A group of women with an aggressive form of advanced breast cancer, which is no longer responding to standard treatment, are to undergo a new €750,000 drugs trial.

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The 34 women attending St James's Hospital, Beaumont Hospital, Vincent's Hospital, University Hospital Galway and Cork University Hospital will be offered new hope.

The women have been diagnosed with advanced HER2-positive (HER2+) breast cancer, which has progressed or recurred and is no longer controlled by standard treatments.

The trial, led by Prof Brian Hennessy, oncologist at Beaumont Hospital, involves testing the new drug copanlisib, in combination with trastuzumab.

The drug trastuzumab is currently used to treat HER2 breast cancers, but some women develop resistance to it and it no longer slows down or halts the growth of cancer cells.

The hope is that the new trial will help to reverse this resistance, creating a new form of breast cancer therapy.

Professor Hennessy said: "It is known that HER2+ breast cancer can become resistant to current HER2 therapy. We are now learning how this happens.

"The switching on of a pathway called the PI3K pathway in cancer cells is often responsible. One of the ways this happens is through changes that occur in a gene called PIK3CA."

Meanwhile, Prof John Crown, cancer specialist in St Vincent's Hospital, has backed an open letter by patients to Health Minister Simon Harris asking for the retention of a leading sarcoma oncologist.

The doctor - the only specialist in this rare form of cancer in the country - is not having their contract renewed at St Vincent's. Sarcoma affects around 250 people in Ireland annually.

The minister said he was assured that another medical oncologist will be assuming the responsibility for the sarcoma service, and ongoing care for patients undergoing treatment for sarcoma cancer will not be compromised in any way.

"The HSE has also advised me that there will be no reduction to the service provided," he said.

Irish Independent

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