“Deborah agreed to take part in a trial as she was keen to help other cancer patients in the future. "If taking part in a trial means others might be helped then I’m very happy with that."
A study looking at lapatinib and capecitabine for breast cancer that is locally advanced or has spread (EGF 103659, LEAP)
There are a number of growth factor receptors on breast cancer cells. When these receptors are triggered, they tell the cell to grow and divide into 2 new cells.
Lapatinib (also called Tyverb or Tykerb) blocks the activity of 2 of these receptors. The first is called erbB1, or epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). The second is called erbB2, or HER2/neu receptor. The theory is that lapatinib will help stop breast cancer cells growing by blocking these receptors. When this study started, lapatinib was not commonly used to treat breast cancer that had spread.
The people who took part in this study had breast cancer that produced too much of the protein HER2 (
- Trastuzumab (Herceptin)
- An anthracycline chemotherapy drug such as epirubicin or doxorubicin
- A taxane chemotherapy drug such as paclitaxel or docetaxel
The aims of this study were to find out
Summary of results
The research team found that the combination of lapatinib and capecitabine was a safe and useful treatment for HER2 positive advanced breast cancer.
This study was something called an ‘expanded access programme’. EAPs are different to other large clinical trials. The list of who can take part (eligibility criteria) is less strict. And everyone taking part has the same treatment so there is no ‘control group’.
The people in this study had had a number of different treatments already. And their cancer had either spread to an area around the breast, or to another part of the body (including the brain).
The study recruited over 4,200 people from around the world, including 25 men. They all had breast cancer that had continued to grow and spread despite treatment.
Everyone taking part had lapatinib once a day every day, and capecitabine twice a day for 2 weeks out of every 3. Each 3 week period is 1 cycle of treatment. The most common time people had treatment for was about 5 months, although some people had treatment for much longer than this.
The research team analysed the results in September 2008 to see how well the treatment worked. They found that the treatment controlled the cancer growth in just over half the patients treated. Overall, the most common time for the cancer to start to grow again was about 5 months (21 weeks).
When they looked in more detail they found that people who had not had capecitabine before generally did better than those who had had it before.
The most common side effects were diarrhoea and feeling or being sick. About 1 in 5 people taking part had a side effect that was classed as serious.
The research team concluded that lapatinib and capecitabine was safe to use and did help to stop breast cancer growing in some patients.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Prof D Miles
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)