"I was delighted to take part in a clinical trial as it has the potential to really help others in the future.”
A study to find out whether lapatinib reaches breast cancer that has spread to the brain
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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.
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 (
How to join a clinical trial
Professor Charles Coombes
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
Imanova Centre for Imaging Sciences, Imperial College London
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer