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Promising new drug could improve breast cancer treatment

August 2nd, 2017

A new class of anti-cancer drugs could help to improve outcomes for some of the most aggressive types of breast cancer, according to the results of a study co-funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Combining this new drug (currently called S63845) with currently used cancer drugs was found to be more effective in killing triple negative breast cancers and HER2-positive breast cancers.

Around one in three Australian women with breast cancer have a triple negative or HER2-positive breast cancer. Triple negative breast cancers are particularly common in women with a faulty BRCA1 gene.

The promising results are particularly important because unlike other breast cancers, these types of breast cancer have not seen substantial improvements in treatment or patient outcomes in the past 30 years.

The research results

Dr Delphine Merino
Dr Delphine Merino

The research was led by Dr Delphine Merino, Dr James Whittle, Dr François Vaillant, Professor Jane Visvader and Professor Geoff Lindeman from Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, in collaboration with Servier.

Dr Merino said S63845 was particularly effective in treating triple negative and HER-2 positive breast cancers, when tested in samples taken from patients’ tumours.

“Combining S63845 with standard therapies, such as chemotherapy or targeted drugs such as Herceptin, proved highly effective in killing these very aggressive tumour types,” said Dr Merino.


Patient samples are important

Dr Vaillant said tumours from patients provide a valuable way of studying new breast cancer drugs.

“With the support of the Victorian Cancer Biobank, and samples donated by breast cancer patients, we have generated a large number of laboratory models that mimic how tumours behave and respond to therapy in the patient, allowing us to test a range of anti-cancer drugs. This approach can help fast-track the development and transfer of promising drugs to the clinic,” Dr Vaillant said.

The promising results from this study suggest the treatment combination should be investigated in clinical trials.