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Combined Therapy for Hormone Receptor-Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer

Posted Mar 16 2010 7:15am
Growth factors, like epidermal growth factor, have been shown to play important roles in tumor development and cancer progression.  For this reason, drugs that inhibit growth factors are frequently used for a variety of targeted cancer therapies.  Drugs that inhibit the function of epidermal growth factor receptors are frequently used for a variety of cancer types.  By blocking the receptor, these drugs might prevent or reduce the ability of growth factors to stimulate cancer development.

Recent breast cancer research published in the March 15th issue of Clinical Cancer Research suggests that combining an epidermal growth factor inhibitor, Gefitinib , with an aromatase inhibitor, anastrozole , might improve breast cancer outcomes.  For this study, postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer were treated with either (1) anastrozole + placebo or (2) anastrozole + gefitinib.  The results indicated that
  • The combination of an aromatase inhibitor with an epidermal growth factor inhibitor lengthened progression-free survival (about 15 months for the combination versus about 8 months for patients treated with only the aromatase inhibitor).
  • Clinical benefit rate was 49% in patients receiving the combination therapy compared to only 34% in patients receiving the aromatase inhibitor alone.
While the number of patients (174) in this study was small, this preliminary trial shows promising results for the treatment of breast cancer with a combination of endocrine therapy (aromatase inhibition) and growth factor receptor inhibition therapy.  According to the study investigators, there were no unexpected adverse effects and the combination therapy was well tolerated.  Future studies will need to be done to confirm the results of this pilot study and hopefully to expand it to other breast cancer stages.  For now, these results represent an advancement in breast cancer therapy that might pave the way for improved breast cancer outcomes.

In addition to research designed to improve breast cancer therapy and outcomes, research into breast cancer prevention continues to progress.  To learn more about what you can do to reduce breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at .
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