The combination of the newly developed drug Palbociclib with hormone therapy significantly extends the lives of women with advanced breast cancer, scientists said yesterday.
Women with metastatic cancer who were given the combination therapy lived seven months longer than those with whom they were treated with hormones alone. In women who had previously responded to hormone therapy, these prolonged survival times averaged 1
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and simultaneously presented at the European Society of Congress on Medical Oncology in Munich, Germany. "These results show that we can now provide women with incurable breast cancer with valuable additional survival before their condition worsens, which is very encouraging," said Professor Nick Turner of the Institute of Cancer Research, who led the study.
Researchers at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust also participated in the study, which was funded by drug maker Pfizer. A total of 521 women with advanced hormone-sensitive breast cancer participated.
The study looked at how palbociclib affects the overall survival rate of women when advanced breast cancer ceases to respond to other treatments. Usually the only option available is chemotherapy, which can have debilitating side effects. The researchers wanted to find out if the drug could delay the need for chemotherapy.
Their analysis showed that women who received the combination treatment survived on average 34.9 months – 6.9 months longer than those who received only hormone treatment. Three years after being enrolled in the study, 49.6% of women receiving both palbociclib and hormones were still alive, compared to 40.8% of women treated with hormones alone.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Now – although she welcomes the study – said she was concerned that the new treatment might not reach NHS breast cancer patients as their assessment methodology has not been updated to handle modern combination therapies ,
"We just can not keep the research going We're letting NHS patients go and calling for a reform of the assessment methodology to ensure that new and effective combination therapies can be delivered quickly at a cost that the NHS can afford . "
Britain still has one of the lowest breast cancer survival rates in Western Europe, and this year around 11,500 women will lose their lives.