This site is intended for health professionals only

Drug tackles invasive breast cancer


A chemotherapy drug could be effective in treating the most aggressive form of breast cancer, studies suggest.

Joint research from London’s Royal Marsden Hospital and the Chaim Sheba Medical Centre, in Israel, shows that lapatinib is a benefit to patients with inflammatory breast cancer and is not affected by previous treatments of herceptin.

Inflammatory breast cancer involves a greater overproduction of the HER2 protein – which is involved in the signalling pathways leading to cell growth – compared with less aggressive breast cancers.

It is the cause of up to 6% of all invasive breast tumours in the USA and western Europe, and up to 10% in North Africa and Arabian countries.

Lapatinib is an oral inhibitor of HER2 and thus interferes with the mechanism of tumour growth.

The study, published online in the Lancet Oncology, looked at 126 patients with inflammatory breast cancer treated with daily doses of lapatinib.

The researchers found that although no patient showed complete response to the treatment, 49 of them (39%) showed a 50% reduction in skin disease – a symptom of the cancer.

The average time a patient showed no progression of symptoms was 15 weeks. After six months, 22% of patients were still progression-free.

Joint authors Dr Stephen Johnston and Dr Bella Kaufman said: “Lapatinib monotherapy is potentially clinically effective in heavily pre-treated patients with inflammatory breast cancer with HER2+ tumours. The objective response rate noted… coupled with the median duration of response and median overall survival supports a role for lapatinib in these patients.”

Copyright Press Association 2009

Lancet Oncology

Latest Issue

Be in the know
Subscribe to Hospital Pharmacy Europe newsletter and magazine