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Breast cancer drug 'could extend life by five years'

Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Archive

A new breast cancer drug could extend the lives of patients with an advanced form of the disease by almost five years, a study has found.

Women with an aggressive type of cancer could benefit from using perjeta as a combination with chemotherapy and the drug herceptin, researchers said.

Trials into the effectiveness of the combination treatment found survival rates among women with previously untreated advanced HER2-positive breast cancer was extended by more than four and a half years.

UK study lead Professor David Miles, consultant oncologist at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in London, said: "These results are impressive.

"They show a magnitude of survival benefit which we have never seen before in advanced breast cancer, let alone this particular type, previously regarded as having a poor prognosis and being difficult to treat."

Perjeta, manufactured by drug company Roche, is a targeted treatment which works to block cancer cell growth and cell signalling.

It is not currently available on the NHS but a final recommendation is yet to be issued.

Read more: 700,000 UK women at risk of 'hidden' breast cancer

'More must be done' to identify higher breast density

Doctors need to do more to identify women with higher breast density early in the battle against breast cancer, a leading health expert has said.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Campaign, said the mots effective way to stop the disease was to prevent from occurring in the first place.

The best weapon in overcoming breast cancer is the ability to stop the disease occurring in the first place. To do this, we need better ways to identify who is most at risk.

The emerging evidence on risk factors such as breast density, which we now know is putting hundreds of thousands of women at risk of developing breast cancer, must be taken into consideration and more must be done.

– Baroness Delyth Morgan

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700,000 UK women at risk of 'hidden' breast cancer

More than 700,000 women across the UK are living with a "hidden" breast cancer risk because they have "high breast density", according to a health charity.

Credit: REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Breast Cancer Campaign warned women were at a higher risk of developing a tumour if they had more collage and glandular tissue than fatty tissue in their breasts.

Research showed women with the highest density were up to five times more likely to develop breast cancer than those with low density.

Some 8.3% of women aged between 47 to 75 were estimated to have high breast density, according to the clinical trial.

Increase in skirt size 'can increase cancer risk 33%'

A study that has linked an increasing skirt size to breast cancer examined the self-reported "central obesity" of more than 90,000 women across England aged over 50 and who had no known history of breast cancer.

During the research, published in the journal BMJ Open, asked about their skirt size when they were aged 25, their current size and a number of other health questions.

During the three-year follow-up period 1,090 women developed the disease.

The researchers found that a unit increase in UK skirt size every 10 years between 25 and postmenopausal age was linked to a 33% increased risk of breast cancer.

Going up two skirt sizes in the same period was associated with a 77% greater risk, they added.

They also found that a reduction in skirt size decreased the risk of breast cancer but cautioned that three quarters of the women surveyed increased their skirt size during their adult lives.

Thicker waist 'linked to breast cancer'

Credit: PA Wire

Overall weight gain leading to an increasing skirt size could increase a woman's risk of breast cancer by as much as 33%, researchers have found.

If a 25-year-old women goes up a size - for instance from a size 12 to a 14 - every 10 years until after they go through the menopause they could be increasing their chances of getting the disease, the study found.

The authors said that overall weight gain has been linked to breast cancer but a thicker waist appears to be particularly harmful.

New radiotherapy 'eliminates need for numerous visits'

An innovative radiotherapy treatment will "eliminate the need for numerous hospital visits" and greatly improve the patient's quality of life, a health chief said.

Professor Carole Longson, director of health technology evaluation at Nice, said:

Unlike regular radiotherapy, with the Intrabeam Radiotherapy System only one dose is required.

This single dose is given at the same time as surgery, eliminating the need for numerous hospital visits.

Regular radiotherapy typically requires numerous doses over a three week period - although some people may receive it for longer - and is performed weeks or months after surgery or chemotherapy.

Whilst current evidence was not extensive, this type of radiotherapy was more convenient for patients and can improve a person's quality of life.

It's still a new treatment - so far only six centres in the UK have used the Intrabeam Radiotherapy System to treat early breast cancer.

– Professor Carole Longson

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'Innovative' radiotherapy for breast cancer sufferers

Tens of thousands of breast cancer sufferers could soon be receiving an "innovative" type of radiotherapy treatment, it has emerged.

The treatment will be available to women in the early stages of breast cancer. Credit: PA

The National Institute for Health and Care excellence (Nice) gave intrabeam radiotherapy the seal of approval for use on the NHS.

The treatment involves administering a single dose of radiotherapy to patients during surgery.

A single dose of radiotherapy could be "more convenient" for patients, Nice said.

Intrabeam radiotherapy will be available to patients in the early stages of breast cancer.

Antibody reduced tumour size in the mice by 94.8%

In experiments on mice with the same type of HER2 positive breast cancer, scientists used an antibody drug to block activity of alpha v beta 6.

We found that simultaneously targeting alpha v beta 6 and HER2 in mice with tumours grown from human breast cancer cells greatly improved the effectiveness of Herceptin - even eliminating tumours that did not respond to Herceptin alone, which could have the potential to improve treatments for patients with these highly aggressive cancers.

– Researcher Dr Kate Moore, from Queen Mary University of London's Barts Cancer Institute

Combining the antibody with the drug Herceptin, which targets the cancer-driving HER2 protein, completely eradicated the animals' tumours after six weeks of treatment. Using the antibody on its own reduced the size of tumours in the mice by 94.8%.

In comparison, treatment with Herceptin alone led to a 77.8% reduction.

Up to 70% of women with HER2-positive breast cancer either do not respond to Herceptin or develop resistance to the drug, leaving up to 7,000 women a year in the UK with limited treatment options.

Scientists find breast cancer tumour growth molecule

Scientists found a molecule that helps tumours in an especially deadly form of breast cancer have grow and spread. The molecule, known as alpha v beta 6, could be used both to identify at-risk patients and develop new treatments, say scientists.

Scientists found a molecule that helps tumours in an especially deadly form of breast cancer have grow and spread. Credit: PA

A study found high levels of alpha v beta 6 in 40% of tumours in women with HER2 positive breast cancer, a form of the disease that does not respond to conventional hormone therapy. These patients were twice as likely to die within five years of diagnosis as those with low levels of the molecule.

In experiments on mice with the same type of breast cancer, scientists used an antibody drug to block activity of alpha v beta 6. Combining the antibody with the drug Herceptin, which targets the cancer-driving HER2 protein, completely eradicated the animals' tumours after six weeks of treatment.

Blood test would allow women to 'control cancer risk'

A simple blood test which could detect the early signs of breast cancer would allow a woman to "take control of her own risk", a medical expert said.

Dr Matthew Lam, senior research officer at the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, described the findings as "definitely promising".

This could mean that in the future a woman may be able to have a simple blood test to look for this DNA signature, and therefore know if she is at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

If she does have this signature, she could then work with her doctor to explore the options available to help her take control of her own risk.

These could include lifestyle changes, tailored breast screening, risk-reducing drugs or surgery.

– Dr Matthew Lam
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