Breast cancer is all too common in the United States, where about one in every eight women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
However, a recently approved drug has been found to potentially slow the progression of advanced breast cancer. The drug, palbociclib (Ibrance), was approved by the FDA last year for the treatment of ER-positive breast cancer, a specific strain of cancer fueled in part by estrogen.
The approval for this drug came after a clinical trial that utilized two medications, a standard cancer treatment drug Femara, and Ibrance. Researchers found that patients who used both medicines in conjunction doubled the length of their remission, compared to only using Femara.
In this latest trial, researchers randomly selected 666 women to receive the drug duo or just Femara. They found that in those who only took Ibrance or Femara , 44% and 62% had died or seen their cancer spread, respectively. However, the cancer of those who were prescribed both not only went into remission but didn’t spread to any other areas of the body.
Among the postmenopausal women in the trial, the average length of remission was two years when taking Ibrance in addition to Femara.
Ibrance is one of the first drugs that prevents two separate enzymes, CDK4 and CDK6, from spreading ER-positive breast tumors. The patient would take the tablet medication daily for three weeks, followed by one week off. Comparatively, Femara works by decreasing the estrogen levels in the body.
Considering the fact that two-thirds of all breast cancer cases have receptors for estrogen and/or progesterone, the researchers on this trial are exceptionally happy with these results. “We found that the degree of clinical benefit was, again, remarkable,” said lead researcher Dr. Richard Finn, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Their findings were published in the November issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.