A new breast cancer drug combination significantly shrunk and eliminated tumours in 28% of women tested in just 11 days. The novel treatment involves a combination of pre-chemotherapy drugs lapatinib and trastuzumab that target HER2-positive tumours.

In case you´ve been living under a rock, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting women both in developed and developing world. Even though survival rates ranging from 40 – 80% are relatively high compared to other cancers, the overwhelming incidence makes it probably the most notorious gender-specific disease out there.

Part of the reason why cancer is so devastating also lays in the damaging side effects of chemotherapy, a reason why science is looking into treatment possibilities which would omit it completely. Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research in London now identified a combination of pre-chemotherapy drugs lapatinib and trastuzumab to be profoundly effective. They tested it in 257 breast cancer patients just 11 days prior to surgery, only to find it completely eliminated tumours in 11% of women and significantly shrunk them in another 17% on day of surgery.

“This has ground-breaking potential because it allows us to identify a group of patients who, within 11 days, have had their tumours disappear with anti-HER2 therapy alone and who potentially may not require subsequent chemotherapy. This offers the opportunity to tailor treatment for each individual woman.” said Professor Nigel Bundred at the 10th European Breast Cancer Conference.

The biological treatment targets HER2, a prominent breast cancer protein marker responsible for tumour proliferation and growth. In addition to observing a significant reduction in tumour sizes, researchers also recorded a decline in Ki67 protein, an indicator of tumour proliferation.

“Clearly these results need further confirmation, but I suspect the excitement from seeing the speed of disappearance of the tumours will mean that several trials will attempt to confirm these results.” added Professor Bundred.

Cancer without a doubt represents one of the most devastating and frustrating diseases today, affecting millions of lives worldwide. However, with the recent advances in cancer therapy things are looking a lot brighter for the future. Here are also some easy ways how you can support breast cancer awareness today.

Learn more about the role of HER2 in breast cancer and treatment possibilities in the video below:


By Luka Zupančič, MSc, University of Applied Sciences Technikum Vienna