“At the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress this week, investigators presented data for a new and potentially important drug, ribociclib (Novartis). This oral medication is clearly active in hormone receptor-positive (ER+ or PR+) breast cancer. The findings of the MONALEESA trial were published in the NEJM.
“The main result is that for the most common form of advanced breast cancer, adding ribociclib to letrozole significantly improved progression-free survival (PFS), as compared to adding a placebo. After a year and a half (18 months) in this randomized, controlled clinical trial, PFS among women receiving ribociclib was 63.0%, vs. 42.2% in the placebo arm. That’s a big difference, when you consider that 99% of the patients on the study have stage 4, metastatic breast cancer.”
“The risk for local recurrence of breast cancer decreases as event-free survival lengthens, according to an analysis of a large database from the Netherlands.
“The study, which also demonstrated that recurrence risk varies substantially by subtype, should help physicians counsel women with breast cancer.
” ‘The risk of local recurrence as a first event within 5 years after diagnosis was low overall, at 3%. It differed by subtype, with ER-positive, PR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer with the lowest risk and triple-negative with the highest risk,’ said Martine Moossdorff, MD, who is currently a doctoral candidate at Maastricht University Medical Center, in the Netherlands.”
The gist: Researchers are hoping a treatment approach called ‘PI3K inhibition’ might improve outcomes for people with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. But it’s unclear whether the approach will be successful, and a recent attempt did not give stellar results. In a clinical trial, researchers gave patients the PI3K inhibitor drug pictilisib along with the drug fulvestrant (Faslodex). It did not significantly lengthen the amount of time patients went without their cancer worsening. But later analysis showed that it did stave off cancer getting worse in certain patients: women whose breast cancer is both estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) and progesterone receptor–positive (PR+). Further research is needed to see if any PI3K drugs are particularly effective. For more information, click through to the full article and see this other article from Cancer Network.
“Interest is high in studying the PI3K pathway in hormone receptor–positive breast cancer, but it is not clear which of the PI3K inhibitors under development—if any—will be a ‘home run.’
“Adding the pan-class I selective PI3K inhibitor pictilisib to fulvestrant (Faslodex) did not significantly improve progression-free survival in women with estrogen receptor–positive breast cancer, but in an exploratory analysis of the trial, progression-free survival was significantly extended in women with both estrogen receptor–positive and progesterone receptor–positive breast cancer. The findings were presented at the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (Abstract S2-02).
“ ‘When we considered only women with breast cancer positive for both estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor, adding pictilisib resulted in a significant doubling of progression-free survival in an exploratory analysis. We plan to investigate whether the benefit of pictilisib for women with estrogen receptor-/progesterone receptor–positive breast cancer holds true in an additional cohort of patients within this study,’ stated lead author Ian Krop, MD, Director of Clinical Research for the Breast Oncology Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston.”
The gist: A new treatment that combines the drugs bortezomib and fulvestrant has shown promise in treating post-menopausal women with metastatic hormone receptor-positive breast cancer whose disease worsened after being treated with drugs called aromatase inhibitors. The combo treatment was tested in 118 patients in a clinical trial. It doubled the number of patients still alive after 12 months, and it lowered the chance of patients’ cancer worsening. Further studies will continue to measure the effectiveness of the treatment.
“A new combination of cancer drugs delayed disease progression for patients with hormone-receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer, according to a multi-center phase II trial. The findings of the randomized study (S6-03) were presented at the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, held Dec. 6-9, by Kerin Adelson, M.D., assistant professor of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center and chief quality officer at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven.
“The trial enrolled 118 post-menopausal women with metastatic hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer whose cancer continued to progress after being treated with an aromatase inhibitor. The study, based on work done by Doris Germain of Mt. Sinai Hospital, found that the combination of the drugs bortezomib and fulvestrant—versus fulvestrant alone—doubled the rate of survival at 12 months and reduced the chance of cancer progression overall.
“Bortezomib, used most commonly in treating multiple myeloma, is a proteasome inhibitor that prevents cancer cells from clearing toxic material. Fulvestrant causes clumping of the estrogen-receptor protein. When bortezomib blocks the ability of the cell to clear these protein clumps, they grow larger and become toxic to the cancer cells. This, in turn, amplifies the effectiveness of fulvestrant, a drug commonly used in this subset of patients.
“The drug combination doubled the number of patients whose cancer had not progressed after one year from 14% to 28%, according to Adelson.”
“A federal prescription-subsidy program for low-income women on Medicare significantly improved their adherence to hormone therapy to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer after surgery.
” ‘Our findings suggest that out-of-pocket costs are a significant barrier’ to women complying with hormone therapy, said Dr. Alana Biggers, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and lead investigator on the study. Programs that lower these costs can ‘improve adherence—and, hopefully, breast cancer outcomes—for low-income women,’ she said. Biggers presented the results of the study at an Oct. 14 press conference in advance of the American Society for Clinical Oncology Quality Care Symposium in Boston.
“Breast cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths for women of all races, but survival rates differ by race and socioeconomic status, with African American women and women of low income having higher rates of death.”
Editor’s note: Women with early-stage breast cancer have surgery to remove their tumors. They can choose between a mastectomy to remove the entire breast or a lumpectomy to remove the diseased part of the breast (breast conserving therapy, or BCT). Until now, it was thought that a mastectomy and BCT had similar results in terms of long-term survival for a patient. But a new study shows that BCT offers better survival for women who are PR-positive or ER-positive. Further studies are needed to figure out why. The researchers speculate it may have to do with the radiation treatment usually given just after BCT to keep the cancer from returning. Unfortunately, there appear to be socioeconomic barriers to receiving BCT instead of a mastectomy.
“When factoring in what is now known about breast cancer biology and heterogeneity, breast conserving therapy (BCT) may offer a greater survival benefit over mastectomy to women with early stage, hormone-receptor positive disease, according to research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“The study findings defy the conventional belief that the two treatment interventions offer equal survival, and show the need to revisit some standards of breast cancer practice in the modern era.
“The research was presented at the 2014 Breast Cancer Symposium by Catherine Parker, MD, formerly a fellow at MD Anderson, now at the University of Alabama Birmingham.”