A drug that is used in the treatment of lung cancer has shown potential to help some of those suffering from breast cancer.
Research funded by Breast Cancer Now revealed that crizotinib, which treats non-small cell lung tumours, could also be used to target ‘lobular’ breast cancers that have a certain genetic defect.
This targeted therapy, which attacks particular weaknesses in tumour cells, may help the 7,150 women who are diagnosed with E-cadherin defective breast cancer in the UK every year.
Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) London conducted the study, and the results were so successful that £750,000 worth of grants is now going towards a major clinical trial of crizotinib in patients with advanced lobular breast cancer to see whether it can be effective in their treatment.
Lead author of the research professor of cancer genomics in the Breast Cancer Now Research Centre at ICR London, Chris Lord said:
“There are hugely promising laboratory findings and we’re very keen to learn whether this class of drug really works as treatment for women with breast cancer.”
He added that the findings show a clinical trial is “worth pursuing”, and he is “very enthusiastic” about what the forthcoming results could mean for cancer treatment in the future.
There are E-cadherin defects in 13 per cent of breast cancer cases, and in nine out of ten lobular breast tumours. As it currently stands, there are no treatments specifically designed for this variation of breast cancer; so if crizotinib proved to be effective, it would be the first drug to be used to target this form of cancer.
Professor Lord and fellow scientists discovered that crizotinib – a type of ROS1 inhibitor – killed the E-cadherin defective breast tumour cells, while not attacking healthy normal cells surrounding them.
Previously, lobular breast cancers were treated with hormone therapy, as they are driven by oestrogen. However, women can build up resistance to these treatments quickly, and chemotherapy has not proved particularly effective in eradicating these cells. Therefore, sufferers do not have a lot of options when it comes to getting rid of this type of cancer from their body.
Chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, Baroness Delyth Morgan stated that scientists “had little idea how to tailor their treatment to target these faults” before. She commented:
“Hormone therapies can be incredibly difficult for women to take long-term, and with resistance unfortunately common among these patients, we hope this exciting class of drugs offer a much-needed new option for many.”
The Baroness recognised “there is still some way to go”; however, she hopes there is some promise in this trial for E-cadherin defected breast cancer sufferers.
While this form of breast cancer is caused by cells lacking in the E-cadherin protein, new research by Cancer Research UK showed that four in ten cancers could be prevented by making simple lifestyle changes.
A recent study revealed not smoking, being a healthy weight, eating well, staying out of the sun, limiting alcohol intake and protecting against infections can substantially reduce the risk of developing cancer.
Even if you follow a healthy lifestyle, you could still be among the 55,000 people in the UK who are diagnosed with breast cancer a year. That is why it is vital you take part in breast cancer self-screening regularly to detect any suspicious lumps at the earliest instance.