The Vall d’Hebron Oncology Institute (VHIO) has announced the success of clinical trials of a new combination treatment against a type of metastatic breast cancer. Tumor progression-free survival increased nearly 100% with use of the treatment. The use of Trastuzumab Deruxtecan is already approved for some expressions of this tumor, but now the number of patients who could opt for this treatment could increase significantly.
What has been achieved?
The study has managed to significantly increase the survival of treated patients. Specifically, progression-free survival went from a mean of 5.1 months in patients with chemotherapy to a mean of 10 in patients with combination therapy. Median survival went from 17 to 23.4 months.
Cancer in the spotlight: low HER-2,
The study analyzes the effect of this treatment in metastatic breast cancers with low HER-2 expression. HER-2 is a protein found on the outside of some tumor cells. Based on the presence of this molecule, tumors are usually classified as HER-2 positive or negative.
This classification is relevant since it helps oncologists to decide which is the best treatment to fight the disease according to its characteristics.
New treatment for thousands of patients.
From this study, we know that one of the treatments used against HER-2 positive cancers can help many more patients. Aleix Prat, co-author of the study, explains in the press release published by the VHIO “until now, patients with HER2-negative tumors did not benefit from treatments against HER2 (…). Now, thanks to this new immunoconjugate drug, which combines 7-8 molecules of a very powerful chemotherapy with the trastuzumab antibody, the survival of patients is prolonged”.
The treatment is actually a combination of drugs. Trastuzumab Deruxtecan refers to the two components of treatment. The first, a monoclonal antibody, and the second a chemotherapy. Trastuzumab belongs to the family of targeted therapiesa form of precision medicine that manages to put the crosshairs on tumor cells without attacking the rest.
The last steps of the path of a drug.
The clinical trial that featured in the New England Journal of Medicine corresponds to the phase 3 of the development of this treatment. The study involved 557 patients with advanced cases. This phase 3 is the last stage of clinical trials, but that does not mean that the treatment will be available immediately.
The co-author of the study, Miguel Gil, explains that the study has yielded results that are “clinically very relevant and with very manageable adverse effects”, and that they trust that “it will not take long to be incorporated into the public system once it is approved by the European Medicines Agency [EMA] and the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products”. Its use in HER-2 positive patients is already EMA approved and its American counterpart.
Although the phase of clinical trials for this specific application of the treatment has ended, the study of its application continues to extend its use in other cases, such as in patients in earlier stages of the development of the disease, explains Cristina Saura, also co-author of the study . The therapy is also being tested in patients with the same characteristics that were not originally included in the study.
During the last weeks we have been able to discover new advances in the fight against cancer, including another study focused on the combination of chemotherapy and other strategies, also promising, but in less advanced stages of clinical trials. Not in vain these days is celebrated, in Chicago, Illinois, and online, the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncologya convention that allows experts to share the latest developments and catch up on the work of researchers from around the world.
Image | National Cancer Institute