New trial could offer hope to those with incurable breast cancer

Researchers hope that the trial will lead to a treatment for breast cancer patients whose cancer has spread to the brain.

Scientists have embarked on a research project to test whether an existing drug can offer a new treatment to people with incurable breast cancer that has spread to the brain.

Secondary breast cancer, also known as metastatic breast cancer, occurs when the cancer has spread from the breast to other parts of the body, where it becomes incurable.

The study, funded by the charity Breast Cancer Now, will see researchers assess whether the drug talazoparib, also known as Talzenna, will help to kill the cancer cells.

Talazoparib is a drug called a PARP inhibitor which works by preventing cancer cells from repairing, forcing them to die.

Experts from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin will use tumours and breast cancer cells donated by patients to see in the lab whether talazoparib is effective in treating secondary breast cancer in the brain.

Further tests will examine the drug in mice and and models which mimic the brain’s protective system.

Professor Leonie Young, one of the co-leads of the research team, said: “Our previous research has shown that, in many cases, secondary breast cancer tumours in the brain have changes in the way they repair their DNA and we believe this could make them vulnerable to PARP inhibitor drugs like talazoparib.”

Dr Simon Vincent, director of research, support and influencing at Breast Cancer Now, added: “An estimated 35,000 people in the UK are living with incurable secondary breast cancer, and the fear and uncertainty around when this devastating disease will cut their lives short.

“We desperately need to discover new ways to treat this incurable disease, including for those whose breast cancer has spread to the brain and who have very limited treatment options.”

Natalie Woodford was told in 2018 that her breast cancer had spread to her brain (Breast Cancer Now/PA)
Natalie Woodford was told that her breast cancer had spread to her brain (Breast Cancer Now/PA)

Natalie Woodford, 57, from Surrey, was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2017.

“I had primary breast cancer 10 years before my secondary diagnosis,” she said.

“I’ve been very open about my situation with my husband and our 21-year-old daughter, as well as our family and friends.

“All of them support me in their own way, but know not to fuss me and understand my need to get on with things. My husband drives me around now as I am not allowed, which enables me to continue to go to the theatre and art exhibitions and to see my family and friends.

“It’s really encouraging to learn about the new secondary breast cancer research happening. I hope that this study will be a success and lead to new treatments for women like me in the future.”

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