For many women, breast cancer may seem like a death sentence.
But scientists in Europe may have found a new treatment option that could increase survivability in women with aggressive breast cancer.
The recent Cancer Research UK-funded trial found that it is possible to treat breast cancer without needing to undergo chemotherapy. Remarkably, thanks to a cocktail of two breast cancer drugs, 11 percent of the cancers were found to have entirely disappeared within just two weeks. A further 17 percent of cases featured dramatically shrunken tumors after a simple change in treatment (1).
Considering that 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, this may be good news for many of us (2).
The Deal On Breast Cancer
HER2 (human epidermal growth factor) is a protein found on the surface of normal breast cells. It can also affect the growth of some cancer cells. Some cancerous breast cells have a very high number of HER2 receptors. They are called HER2 positive breast cancers. The extra receptors may result in cancer cells growing and dividing at an accelerated rate (3).
It’s estimated that 15-25% of female breast cancer patients suffer from an HER2 positive cancer. This kind of cancer is diagnosed through a biopsy after the initial cancer diagnosis through immunohistochemistry.
HER2-positive breast cancers are aggressive and can require extensive treatment to cure. Plus, these cancers are more likely to return (4).
Breast Cancer Drugs
In the ground-breaking study, researchers focused on Herceptin and Tykerb , two commonly used cancer drugs.
Both drugs are considered to be neoadjuvant treatment, meaning that it’s meant to be used to shrink tumors before the main treatment. These treatments are typically used alongside chemotherapy and surgery.
In the case of Herceptin and Tykerb, the treatments to block the communication of growth signals between cancer cells. They also induce cell death, or apoptosis.