A study to find out whether lapatinib reaches breast cancer that has spread to the brain

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We know that this is an especially worrying time for people with cancer and their family and friends. We have separate information about coronavirus and cancer. Please read that information alongside this page. We will update that information as guidance changes.

Read about coronavirus and cancer

Cancer type:

Breast cancer
Cancer spread to the brain
Secondary cancers

Status:

Results

Phase:

Other

This study was done to find out whether lapatinib can get to breast cancer that has spread to the brain. It was for women whose breast cancer cells have a large amount of a protein called HER2. This is called HER2 positive breast cancer.

More about this trial

There is a natural filter between the blood and the brain which protects the brain from harmful substances. It is called the blood brain barrier. Only some dugs can cross the blood brain barrier. So only some drugs can be used to treat cancer that has spread to the brain.

When this trial was done, trastuzumab (Herceptin) was commonly used to treat breast cancer that is HER2 positive. But it can’t cross the blood brain barrier. 

Lapatinib (Tyverb) is a type of cancer growth blocker called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI). It is also a treatment for HER2 positive breast cancer.  The study team wanted to find out if lapatinib can cross the blood brain barrier.

The women taking part in this study had lapatinib with a small amount of radioactive tracer. This is so it would show up on a PET scan, and the research team could see whether the lapatinib could cross into the brain.

Some women who took part had breast cancer that had spread to the brain. And some had breast cancer that hadn’t spread to the brain.

The aim of this study was to find out whether lapatinib can get to breast cancer that has spread to the brain, and to normal brain cells.

Summary of results

This study recruited 6 people who were having lapatinib for HER2 positive breast cancer:

  • 3 had breast cancer that had spread to the brain
  • 3 had breast cancer that had not spread to the brain

They all had radioactive lapatinib and two PET scans, one on the first day and another 8 days later. The research team found that the lapatinib could cross the blood brain barrier into the breast cancer cells that had spread to the brain. But it was not able to cross the blood brain barrier and get into healthy brain cells where the cancer had not spread.

They think this is because when cancer cells spread to the brain, they can weaken the blood brain barrier. This makes it is less effective, so some drugs can cross into the brain.

This means that lapatinib could be useful for treating HER2 positive breast cancer that has spread to the brain. But it is unlikely to be useful for stopping breast cancer spreading to the brain in the first place.

The research team concluded that lapatinib could cross the blood brain barrier and get to breast cancer that had spread to the brain.

We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team who did the research. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor Charles Coombes

Supported by

Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
Imanova Centre for Imaging Sciences, Imperial College London
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

8040

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Wendy took part in a new trial studying the possible side effect of hearing loss

A picture of Wendy

"I was delighted to take part in a clinical trial as it has the potential to really help others in the future.”

Last reviewed:

Rate this page:

No votes yet
Thank you!
We've recently made some changes to the site, tell us what you think