Trial suggests role for lapatinib in 'inflammatory' breast cancer

In collaboration with the Press Association

Results of a preliminary trial suggest that lapatinib (Tykerb) could be used to treat the rare 'inflammatory' breast cancer (IBC), researchers have said.

IBC accounts for just one to two per cent of all breast cancers but is often only diagnosed after the disease has begun to spread.

The second-stage trials enrolled 49 recently diagnosed IBC patients, around a quarter of whose cancers had begun to spread.

The women received a two-week course of lapatinib, followed by a combination of lapatinib and chemotherapy and eventual surgery.

Of the 35 patients who advanced to surgery, 30, or 86 per cent, saw their tumours reduced in size by at least 50 per cent.

Three of the first 21 patients who underwent surgery were cancer-free by the time that they were operated on.

Between 25 and 30 per cent of the patients responded to lapatinib during the first two weeks of the trials, said researchers. Side effects were minor and manageable.

"For IBC patients, these results should be very encouraging because there's now more of a dedicated research effort for a type of breast cancer that has long been ignored and misunderstood," said researcher Dr Massimo Christofanilli of the University of Texas.

"With lapatinib, we finally have a drug on which to build effective therapy - we just have to refine the most effective way to use it."

The findings were presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.