New drug combination shows early promise for some breast cancer patients

In collaboration with the Press Association

A combination of two drugs could help some breast cancer patients with advanced cancer live longer, according to a small clinical trial. 

The treatment duo delayed the time it took for the disease to get worse in women with advanced breast cancer compared to those given just one of the drugs, according to the results presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in the US this week. 

We need new treatments for women with this form of breast cancer” – Professor Arnie Purushotham, Cancer Research UK

Dr Noah Kornblum from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the US and one of the researchers behind the study, urged caution “until larger studies confirm our results”.

But he said the combination could offer an alternative treatment approach for some women with breast cancer in the future. 

The study looked at 130 postmenopausal women who had a type of breast cancer called ‘HR-positive’. 

These women had advanced disease, meaning their cancer had spread and stopped responding to a type of hormone treatment called an aromatase inhibitor

In the trial, the researchers tested a different hormone therapy – called fulvestrant (Faslodex) – either with a placebo or in combination with another cancer drug called everolimus (Afinitor). 

The researchers report that, on average, it took twice as long for tumours to start growing again in those who were given the combination of cancer drugs, compared to those given fulvestrant with a placebo. Women given both drugs also experienced more side effects than those given just one. 

Professor Arnie Purushotham, Cancer Research UK’s (CRUK) senior clinical adviser, said: “Finding a group of breast cancer patients who may benefit from everolimus is promising. But the study was in only 100 patients so larger trials are needed to confirm the findings. 

“We need new treatments for women with this form of breast cancer and if larger trials are successful, we’ll need to find ways to reduce the drug’s side-effects.”