This is a significant advance in breast cancer research which was presented on Sunday, June 5, at the Cancer Congress in Chicago (United States) and published in the process in the reference medical journal New England Journal of Medicine. An international study (in English) has shown that a treatment that worked until now in a limited number of patients is finally effective in a larger number. It could eventually be prescribed to half of women with breast cancer.
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For the past year, there has been a treatment for patients with metastatic breast cancer whose tumor has a very large amount of protein, the HER2 protein. These patients are only 2 000 to 3 000 in France. The challenge then was to know whether this anti-HER2 treatment, a new generation targeted therapy, also worked on patients who also have this protein, but in a smaller quantity. And the answer is yes, explains Professor William Jacot, from the Montpellier Cancer Institute (ICM), who participated in this international study: “The results are significant. These patients lived six months longer on average. It may not seem like a lot, but it really was a leap forward that we had not seen for more than fifteen years in this subtype of diseases. .” Six months more for women who have until now been given an average of five years of life.
These are thus 5 000 additional breast cancer patients who will be able to benefit from this anti-HER2 targeted treatment – and perhaps even more soon, rejoices Professor William Jacot : “It’s a huge message of hope because when you have this kind of demonstration at advanced stages of the disease, the next step is going to be to try to do it at increasingly earlier stages. And to arrive at localized stages to no longer increase the quantity of life, but the healing rates so that more patients can heal at the end. And that is major, because globally it represents half of the women who get breast cancer.” That is a total of 30,000 patients each year in France.
For all these patients, targeted anti-HER2 therapy will also reduce chemotherapy, which is toxic and not always well tolerated. And it’s not over, this discovery still opens up other perspectives, enthuses Professor Fabrice André, from the Gustave-Roussy Institute in Villejuif: “What you have to understand is that in fact, from now on, we can build these drugs to order. Today, we are interested in the HER2 protein, tomorrow we will be interested in another protein , it can be TOO2, the day after tomorrow HER3, etc. It means that today, these conjugated antibodies can work independently of the origin of the cancer.”
Clearly, the drug will no longer be prescribed according to the organ that is affected, the breast, lung or kidney for example, but according to the specific type of tumour. We are therefore moving towards increasingly personalized medicine.
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