A “ground-breaking” new drug has stopped the progression of an incurable form of breast cancer for more than two years in a US study.
The experimental breast cancer drug, called PD-0332991, is a new type of drug that works by blocking a protein critical in the cancer cell cycle.
The latest study involved 165 patients with the most common type of breast cancer whose tumours are oestrogen receptor-positive. All the participants had a metastatic form of the disease, meaning their cancer was no longer considered curable.
In the trial, patients were given PD-0332991 along with another drug called Femara. The findings showed no tumour progression for a median of 26.1 months, compared with 7.5 months in those who received Femara alone.
45 per cent of patients given the drug responded to therapy compared with 31 per cent given Femara. But when the researchers included women who had a stable form of the disease for six months or more, 70 per cent given both drugs benefitted compared with 44 per on Femara.
Side effects included low levels of white-blood cells, anaemia and fatigue. Lead researcher Richard Finns said:
"The magnitude of this benefit I don't think should be underestimated."
“These are patients who have incurable breast cancer. A lot of drugs in oncology have been approved or are getting a lot of traction because of improvements that last weeks to a few months. We have gone from 7 months to 26 months. That's ground-breaking."
These results were from the second of three stages of testing normally needed for approval in the U.S. Drug manufacturer Pfizer is moving the drug into the final stage of testing as quickly as possible with an international trial starting in 2013.
PD-0332991 will have to be awarded a European license before it is made available for prescription in the UK. But once it has been licensed and marketed, private health insurance patients could have access to it through their policy.
All new drugs have to be further approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) before being made widely available on the NHS, a process that usually takes a year or more.
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