One of the most promising breast cancer breakthroughs last year occurred when scientists in the U.K. tested the effectiveness of two drugs, Herceptin and Lapatinib, on the growth and division of cancer cells. The researchers used these drugs to combat a protein called HER2, which encourages the growth and division of cancer cells. The result? Scientists were able to eliminate breast cancer in patients with the HER2 protein in only 11 days.
The Study Explained
Scientists selected 257 women with HER2 positive breast cancer for the study. Half of the women were put on a combination of both drugs. The other half were in a control group treated with only Herceptin.
After less than two weeks, 11% of the women on both drugs had no cancer cells remaining and 17% of them had dramatically shrunken tumors.
In the control group, however, the cancer cells were not eradicated, and only 3% of the women showed shrunken tumors.
In other words: a combination of the drugs Herceptin and Lapatinib seems to have a major effect on reducing breast cancer cells.
What Does This Mean
The women in this study did not receive chemotherapy or surgery in addition to being treated with the two drugs. This study signifies that the dual drug treatment could eliminate the need for chemotherapy and surgery in breast cancer patients.
This finding would be an enormous breakthrough.
Chemotherapy has severe side effects like vomiting, hair loss, and fatigue, and isn’t always effective. Surgery is invasive and involves additional risks to one’s life and overall health. The option to take these drugs instead of undergoing chemotherapy or surgery would increase the quality of life of breast cancer patients and the chances of successful treatment. Plus, the HER2 protein is more likely to return than any other protein involved in breast cancer, which means eradicating it would lower the chances of recurrence.
The Future of These Drugs
Currently, Herceptin is only available alongside chemotherapy. Also, scientists need more time to study the effects of both drugs on breast cancer patients before making an adequate assessment of their overall effects. That said, this is a promising medical advancement in the field of breast cancer treatment.
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The AiRS Foundation posts updates on the latest medical breakthroughs, as well as tips for living with breast cancer and deciding how to approach breast reconstruction, on its weekly blog. Check back in for more information!