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Is there a new targeted treatment for breast cancer in its early stages?
27 Jan' 21

Is there a new targeted treatment for breast cancer in its early stages?

 

 

Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer in women in the United States and the second greatest cause of cancer-related fatalities. An estimated 270,000 women and a much lower number of males are diagnosed with it each year. It's usually highly curable when found early on. 

Some women with early-stage breast cancer linked to specific genetic flaws may have more options thanks to a promising new type of tailored treatment. (Cancers in the early stages have not spread to other organs or tissues in the body.)

What does the BRCA gene do?

BRCA genes refer to BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which you may have heard of. BRCA genes normally assist in the repair of DNA (genetic code) damage that occurs on a regular basis in cells throughout the human body.

BRCA mutations are aberrant abnormalities in these genes that are handed down from one generation to the next. When a person has a BRCA mutation, their body is less able to repair ordinary DNA damage to cells. This cumulative cell damage could pave the way for cancer to develop. A person with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation or both is more likely to develop cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate, or pancreatic, as well as melanoma. Other gene mutations and other factors can influence a person's breast cancer risk.

BRCA gene mutations are found in just 3% to 5% of all breast cancer patients. BRCA mutations, on the other hand, are more common among patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, a significant family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, and younger women with breast cancer.

Read more How long does your period last? 

Breast cancer types and inherited BRCA mutations

Women with BRCA gene mutations are more likely to develop certain forms of breast cancer.  

Breast cancer cells that are fueled by the hormone oestrogen but not by a protein called HER2 are more likely to form in women who have a BRCA2 mutation (human epidermal growth factor 2) 

Triple-negative breast cancer (ER-/PR-/HER2-): Women with a BRCA1 mutation are more likely to develop triple-negative breast cancer (ER-/PR-/HER2-)  cancer cells that aren't fuelled by estrogen, progesterone, or HER2.  

Knowing what causes different types of breast cancer to grow aids scientists in developing novel treatments and clinicians in deciding which medicines to use to delay or stop tumor growth. This frequently necessitates a combination of treatments. 

A novel treatment for early-stage BRCA-related breast malignancies has been developed

Women with early-stage breast cancer and hereditary BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations were included in the Olympic trial. Despite normal treatments, they were all at a high risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Participants in the study had received typical breast cancer treatments, including: 

a procedure (a mastectomy or lumpectomy)  

treatment with chemo (given either before or after surgery)  

Endocrine therapy, which is a hormone-blocking medication, is a possibility. 

For one year, they were randomly allocated to consume olaparib or placebo (sugar tablets) pills twice a day.

Read more What scientist have Discovered About Estrogen and Physical Activity  

Olaparib is a PARP inhibitor, which is a type of medication. PARP (poly adenosine diphosphate-ribose polymerase) is a DNA-repair enzyme. When this enzyme is blocked in BRCA-mutated cancer cells, the cells perish due to increased DNA damage.

The New England Journal of Medicine published the findings of this investigation. Women who got olaparib were less likely than those who received a placebo to have their breast cancer relapse or metastasis (spread to other organs or tissues). After two and a half years of follow-up, slightly more than 85 percent of women who took olaparib were alive and had no cancer recurrence or new second malignancy, compared to 77 percent of women who received placebo.

In addition, the researchers calculated that after three years:

With olaparib, the chances of cancer not spreading to distant organs or tissues where roughly 88 percent, compared to 80 percent with placebo.  

The olaparib-treated group had a 92 percent chance of survival, while the placebo group had an 88 percent chance.  

Low white cell count, low red cell count, and weariness are all adverse effects of olaparib. These had a slim possibility of coming to fruition.

The bottom line

The FDA has already approved Olaparib for the treatment of BRCA-related malignancies of the ovaries, pancreatic, and prostate, as well as metastatic breast cancer. Based on the findings of this study, FDA clearance for BRCA-related early-stage breast cancer is expected soon. These findings show that taking olaparib for a year after finishing standard therapy could be a suitable option for women with early-stage breast cancer who have an inherited BRCA gene mutation and are at high risk of cancer recurrence and metastasis.

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