‘Landmark moment’ as breast cancer drug found to shrink tumours – thousands could be saved

Up to 8,000 cancer patients in the UK could receive a game-changing drug shown to shrink tumours and slow the progression of the disease, experts have said. A trial of 700 people yielded “fantastic” results after showing the drug could double the amount of time it takes before the disease progresses. Both patients with the advanced form and most common form of breast cancer could benefit from the treatment, when taken alongside hormone therapy.

The findings of a phase III clinical trial were presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium on Thursday.

As part of the trial, 355 patients received the drug alongside fulvestrant, a common hormone therapy administered to patients with progressing disease.

Capivarsertib appeared to complement the hormone therapy by inhibiting the activity of cancer-driving protein molecule AKT.

When coupled with hormone therapy, researchers found the drug shrank tumours in 23 percent of patients, compared with 12 percent of those who received a placebo.

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Another key finding was that the time of progress of the disease in these patients grew from 3.6 month to 7.2 months.

Professor Kristian Helin, chief executive of the ICR, said: “This is a landmark moment for the treatment of advanced forms of the most common type of breast cancer.

“Capivasertib could offer a completely new treatment option for these patients.

“This is a major success story for UK science – the discovery and development of capivasertib showcases the benefits of collaboration between academia, charities, and industry to bring game-changing new treatments to people with cancer as quickly as possible.”


For the trial, an additional 355 patients received the common fulvestrant
treatment with a placebo.

This helped prove that the new drug regime was most effective in patients with mutations to their AKT signalling pathways.

In this group, 29 percent saw their tumours shrink, compared to 10 percent
who received the placebo.

Nick Turner, professor of molecular oncology at the ICR and consultant oncologist at the Royal Marsden, who led the study, described the findings as “fantastic”.

He added: “Even with the best current treatments, people with this type of advanced breast cancer will eventually see their cancer stop responding to treatment and it will progress.

“We’re delighted that this potential first-in-class drug combined with hormone therapy can lower the progression of these advanced cancers, and in almost a third of cases can shrink tumours.

“We believe this new treatment could allow more women and men to live well and live longer with breast cancer.”

The drug is currently being manufactured by AstraZeneca after completing a programme of drug discovery research at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London.

How prevalent is breast cancer?

According to Cancer Research UK, one in seven females will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

There are approximately 56,000 new cases diagnosed every year, which equates to 150 per day.

Fortunately, death rates for the disease have steadily decreased since 1989, marking an overall decline of 43 percent through 2020.

After diagnosis, it is estimated around 75 percent of women will survive their cancer for 10 years or more.

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