A new pill that makes breast and ovarian tumours ‘disappear’ could throw a lifeline to women with aggressive ‘Angelina Jolie’ BRACA cancers.
The daily tablet has been shown to be twice as effective as chemotherapy in trials.
In women on the trial who had advanced breast cancer – when the cancer has spread – the drug kept patients free from disease for almost nine months, compared to five-and-a-half months on chemotherapy.
Lead researcher Jennifer Litton, Associate Professor at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said: ‘This is game-changing because patients would always rather take a daily pill than go to hospital for chemo.
‘Even more exciting is that it produced a much better result than chemotherapy, with all tumours shrinking significantly in 62 per cent of patients, compared to just 27 per cent of patients who received chemo, with far fewer side effects.’
Litton added: ‘There’s scope for this drug to be used beyond breast and ovarian cancer, and certainly beyond the realm of patients with BRACA mutations, although this should be the standard treatment for patients with BRACA-related cancer.’
In 2013 Jolie, right, revealed she was a carrier of the faulty ‘BRACA 1’ gene, meaning an 87 per cent risk of breast cancer and a 50 per cent risk of ovarian cancer.
Aged 37, to cut her risk of cancer, she had a double mastectomy, and in 2015 had her ovaries removed.
The genetic mutation is responsible for roughly 20 per cent of all breast and ovarian cancers and results in aggressive tumours often unresponsive to commonly prescribed treatment.
A BRACA 1 or 2 mutation can be inherited at birth and increases the risk of developing breast or ovarian cancers by between 40 and 90 per cent.
Advanced breast cancer is typically treated with a course of intravenous chemotherapy, involving regular hospital visits lasting several hours at a time.
Although successful at halting the progression of cancer for an average of six months, toxic side effects such as nausea, sickness and life-threatening infection make chemotherapy intolerable for ten to 20 per cent of patients.
But the new drug, Talazoparib, extended the time to deterioration to up to two years, compared to six months for those administered 21-day cycles of chemotherapy.
The research, first presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December, is part of a global study investigating the efficacy of the new drug.
Almost 500 patients were recruited from 145 hospitals in 16 countries, including Australia, Germany, Italy, the US and UK.
The research, first presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December, is part of a global study investigating the efficacy of the new drug
Dr Tobias Arkenau, oncologist and researcher at one of the trial’s UK sites, The Sarah Cannon Cancer Research Institute in London, said: ‘This is an exciting drug because it’s tailored to the genetic components of the patient and the tumour itself.’
Talazoparib works by inhibiting the action of a protein called PARP, found in cells throughout the body which helps to repair broken or faulty DNA strands.
As those with a BRACA mutation have a compromised DNA repair system, mutations to DNA which cause cancer are not corrected.
But the body calls on PARP to repair resulting cancerous cells and this allows them to grow. By blocking PARP, the cancerous cells are unable to grow – and die, shrinking the tumour.
Talazoparib is being considered for approval by the US Food and Drug Administration and the researchers are in the process of submitting the drug to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for approval in UK hospitals.