Gene tests help identify best treatment for one kind of breast cancer

New research has found that aggressive breast cancers where a particular faulty gene is present will respond more readily to a particular type of treatment, Cancer Research UK has revealed. 

A study jointly funded by Cancer Research UK and Breast Cancer Now found that where a faulty BRCA gene is present in triple negative breast cancer patients, chemotherapy using the drug Carboplatin (Paraplatin) is twice as likely to bring about a positive response as that using Docetaxel (Taxotere). 

At present, it is not the norm for women with this form of cancer to be tested for a faulty BRCA gene. However, in light of this research, that should now change, according to Professor Andrew Tutt from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London.

The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, revealed that of the 376 patients tested for a faulty BRCA gene, half were treated with docetaxel and the others with carboplatin, with the latter having fewer side effects.

Of the sample, 45 patients turned out to have a defective BRCA gene. Among this group, the patients treated with carboplatin saw their tumours shrink by 68 per cent on average, compared with a mean figure of 33 per cent for docetaxel. 

The effectiveness of carboplatin is believed to be due to its impact on the function of BRCA genes, which will normally repair damaged DNA but, in the case of a faulty BRCA, will generate a number of errors. However, these can be reduced by the drug because it inhibits this DNA-repairing mechanism. 

By contrast, Docetaxel functions by inhibiting the capacity of cells to divide. 

Professor Judith Bliss from the ICR said: "Women with triple negative breast cancer often only survive for one to two years after the cancer has relapsed and spread to other parts of the body so there is an urgent need to find alternative treatments for this group of patients."

Triple negative breast cancer affects around 7,500 women in the UK each year.ADNFCR-2094-ID-801846526-ADNFCR