Friday, April 17, 2020

2 experimental drugs might extend patients' lives

Renewed hope is possible for women with aggressive breast cancer, new study indicates

Two experimental drugs might help women with an aggressive form of breast cancer, results of a new study show.

According to a recent Associated Press story by Marilynn Marchione that cites reports in the New England Journal of Medicine and at a San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium that the cancers "had spread widely and and resisted many previous treatments," one drug "showed particular ability to reach tumors in the brain, which are notoriously tough to treat."

The other combines "a sort of homing device for cancer cells with a payload of chemotherapy that's released when it reaches its target."

Dr. Ian Krop in his office.
Marchione's article quotes the study's leader, Dr. Ian Krop of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, to the effect that infusions of T-DXd, the second drug, become "a guided missile…able to bring the chemotherapy directly to the cancer cell."

That study — focusing on often-fatal HER2-positive cancers, which have a protein on their cell surfaces driven by an overactive gene that promotes tumor growth — tested TDXd on 253 women

Most of the them, who had, on average, tried six other treatments before the experimental drug, saw their tumors shrink — and 6 percent of them found zero signs of cancer in at least two followup scans.

The positive response rate, the AP story again quotes Krop, "is three to four times better than what's usually seen in this situation." 

To see results showing a median time of 16 months until cancer worsened "is exciting," he added.

All involved, however, noted that side effects — including lung inflammation, low blood counts, nausea, anemia or fatigue — were substantial.

But anti-inflammatory meds can alleviate some of those issues, it's believed.

The study was sponsored by the drug's developers, Daiichi Sankyo Inc. and AstraZeneca, who are seeking approval in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Study of the other drug — tucatinib, from Seattle Genetics — was done on 612 patients. Its side effects included diarrhea, fatigue, nausea and some liver issues, but 45 percent of those on the drug were alive two years after being given it (along with the usual treatments, Herceptin and the chemo drug Xeloda) as opposed to 27 percent who weren't.

More information on experimental drugs can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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