Cancer Research UK and Breakthrough Breast Cancer are to jointly fund the UK’s first clinical trial for women with an aggressive form of breast cancer.
Women with hormone receptor and HER2 negative (‘triple-negative’) breast cancer have fewer treatment options available to them, as their cancers are resistant to targeted breast cancer treatments such as herceptin, and hormone therapies such as tamoxifen.
The Triple Negative Trial is therefore seeking to develop more effective chemotherapy for women with this form of the disease, which accounts for between 15 and 20 per cent of the 44,000 annual breast cancers cases in the UK.
Professor Judith Bliss, director of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit – which is coordinating the trial – commented: “The Triple Negative Trial is an exciting development in the translation of cutting-edge research into real life clinical practice for breast cancer patients throughout the UK.
“We hope this trial will help to better target cancer treatments to the needs of individual patients.”
The five-year trial will recruit up to 450 women, and aims to compare the effects of the current standard treatment for hormone and HER2 negative tumours – docetaxel – with the platinum-based drug carboplatin, which is not usually used to treat breast cancer.
Participants will have been diagnosed with hormone receptor and HER2 negative breast cancer that has spread to another part of the body despite treatment.
The trial will be led by Dr Andrew Tutt, director of the new Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit at King’s College London and consultant oncologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.
Dr Tutt said: “Due to its nature, hormone and HER2 negative, or ‘triple negative’, breast cancer does not respond to targeted treatments like tamoxifen or herceptin.
“Women with these tumours face standard chemotherapy, which does not target the specific biology of this type of cancer. Ultimately, we hope carboplatin could become part of a new, standard treatment for patients with hormone and HER2 negative breast cancer.”
Kate Law, director of clinical trials at Cancer Research UK, commented that women with a form of breast cancer that is difficult to treat may feel “neglected”.
“Clinical trials like this are vital in helping us to develop more effective treatments and improve survival rates for this type of breast cancer,” she said.