Study Uncovers Potential 'Game-Changer' in Breast Cancer Treatment

The results are being called 'groundbreaking'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2016 3:44 PM CST
Study Uncovers Potential 'Game-Changer' in Breast Cancer Treatment
A new breast cancer trial out of Britain found a combination of drugs shrunk or destroyed tumors in more than a quarter of patients within 11 days.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

A new breast cancer trial out of Britain has experts proclaiming its results "astonishing" and "groundbreaking" with "game-changing potential," the Guardian reports. According to the Telegraph, the trial from Cancer Research UK gave women with aggressive breast cancer (known as "HER2 positive" breast cancer) a combination of two cancer-treating drugs: Herceptin (trastuzumab) and Tyverb (lapatinib). After 11 days of treatment with the drug combo, 17% of women saw their tumors shrink drastically, the BBC reports. Even more impressive: Tumors completely disappeared in another 11% of women given both drugs. "It's absolutely intriguing," one researcher says. "It is so fast."

If further studies confirm the results, thousands of women every year could potentially avoid chemotherapy and the long-term side effects it brings with it. Herceptin, specifically, is usually given to HER2 positive breast cancer patients only after surgery and chemotherapy. This trial shows those initial steps could potentially be skipped in some patients. Even better, since results to the drug combo are seen so quickly, doctors would quickly be able to shift to surgery and chemotherapy if necessary. It's a result that's being called "dramatic" and "unexpected" for researchers who were only trying to see how the drugs affected tumors between diagnosis and surgery. (This gene test can tell who needs chemotherapy and who doesn't.)

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