Breast cancer research boost

News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.
News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

PIONEERING research in Sheffield is helping to build on breakthrough treatment, announced today (Thursday), which is extending the lives of advanced breast cancer patients.

As news of the drug Perjeta was released to the international media, Sheffield-based Prof Robert Coleman said he hoped a sister trial at the city’s Cancer Research Centre would push the boundaries even further.

Perjeta is the first in a new kind of treatment, used to tackle a previously untreated form of the disease which accounts for up to 25% of all breast cancers.

Earlier trials of the drug took place in Sheffield last year – where more than 400 women each year are diagnosed with breast cancer.

And ongoing research into its use to prevent the spread of the disease is expected to progress over the next three years.

News that Perjeta has been given the regulatory green light is being welcomed by experts as a major step forward.

Prof Coleman says: “The launch of Perjeta signals a landmark in the fight against HER2-positive breast cancer – a disease that can be very aggressive and difficult to treat in its advanced stages.

“It has been shown not only to stall cancer growth for longer than the current standard of care, but also to extend the lives of patients, giving them more time with their family and loved ones.”

Studies show that the drug, used in combination with Herceptin and chemotherapy, prolongs life by six months and extends survival by 34%. It also produces fewer side-effects.

A woman’s chances of survival have improved enormously in recent times.

“Twenty years ago perhaps half of patients would be cured. Now it’s closer to 80%,” says Prof Coleman, one of the leading breast cancer specialists in the UK.

“There are half a million woman in this country who are survivors of breast cancer. That’s an enormous number. The developments have been so exciting.”

His current Sheffield trials – known as Aphinity and Marianne – are looking at the use of Perjeta to prevent cancers from spreading.

Several women are already involved and more will be recruited over the next year. Results are due in three years’ time.

“It’s such a common disease; there are three to four thousand deaths a year in the UK from this type of breast cancer,” said Prof Coleman.

“We’ve still got to make further progress towards finding a cure. But this drug is one step in that.

“We’re very excited by the result and we’re very keen to see this treatment made available to patients in Sheffield.”

Perjeta has been granted a licence by the European Medicines Agency.