New Research on Targeted Therapy for BRCA-Related Breast Cancer

Last Updated: May 11, 2018

Dr. Daniel Hayes discusses new research on targeted therapy for BRCA-related breast cancer from the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting.

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ASCO President Daniel F. Hayes, MD, FACP, FASCO: There are several themes running through the meeting. One of them is immunotherapy, that's really hot. But one of them is so-called precision medicine, which means getting the right drug, to the right person, at the right time, at the right dose and schedule. It's pretty exciting.

We've actually been doing that in breast cancer pretty well for over 100 years. That's anti-estrogen against so-called estrogen receptors. More recently, anti-HER2 therapies.

But now, this is a very exciting protocol. It turns out that about 3 to 5 percent of women are born with a mistake in the gene that keeps us from getting cancer. There are actually a couple of them. One is called BRCA1 and one is called BRCA2. These are spell-checker genes. So they run around and fix mistakes when our cells divide. So if they're not working, then when our cells divide, they divide with mistakes and mistakes in genes is what causes cancer.

So we've known about that for a long time. This is a drug that seems to only work in people who have that error in their genes. It's already been proven to work in ovarian cancer, and so the question is, would it work in breast cancer in women who have that mistake.

And this is a randomized trial of women who had metastatic breast cancer, and who were born with the mistake in one of those 2 genes, and who had already been treated with some chemotherapy and it had quit working. So half of them got whatever their doctor thought should be the next chemotherapy, but half of them just got this drug. It's just a pill, has very few side effects, and it turns out the odds of responding, of the cancer shrinking, are about twice as high with this drug, than with chemotherapy. The odds of their doing well on the drug is about twice as long as with chemotherapy. We don't know if it makes them live longer yet, this trial needs to get a little more mature. But this is going to introduce this drug, I'm pretty sure, into 1 of the things we have to offer women who are born with this mutation and then get breast cancer from it. So we think this is a real step forward. It's 1 of our plenary sessions. I believe it will change how we treat people with breast cancer.

[Closing and Credits]

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