‘Jolie gene’ drug can slash breast cancer danger: Daily pill cuts risk of a relapse in women with the faulty BRCA gene by 42 per cent, study shows
- Olaparib slashes chances of cancer returning or spreading in those with gene
- BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene increase the risk of getting breast cancer by up to 90%
- New treatment will save thousands of lives and offer alternative to mastectomies
- Angelina Jolie had a preventive double mastectomy in 2013 due to the gene
Women with hereditary breast cancer could be cured of the disease by taking daily pills, a major study has found.
A revolutionary drug called Olaparib was found to slash the chance of breast cancer returning or spreading in women with the faulty BRCA gene by up to 42 per cent.
Around 5 per cent of women with breast cancer carry mutated versions of the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes, which increase the risk of getting the disease by up to 90 per cent.
The actress Angelina Jolie had a preventive double mastectomy in 2013 after testing positive for the mutated BRCA1 gene.
The new treatment will save thousands of lives and offer an alternative to life-changing preventive mastectomies.
The actress Angelina Jolie had a preventive double mastectomy in 2013 after testing positive for the mutated BRCA1 gene, which causes breast cancer [File photo]
There is currently no targeted treatment for women with these mutations, who typically develop breast cancer at younger ages.
But yesterday a major study revealed they are 42 per cent less likely to suffer a relapse if they take Olaparib.
‘Reassuring for my kids’
When Caroline Wheeldon was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, genetic tests revealed she has the BRCA2 mutation which could be passed on to her two children.
Mrs Wheeldon, 40, pictured, said it was reassuring to know the new treatment exists if her children have the gene so they won’t need preventive surgery. Mrs Wheedon had a double mastectomy and her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.
Pictured: Caroline Wheeldon
The drug has already been found to extend the lives of women with ovarian cancer and was approved for use on the NHS in 2015.
Some 1,832 women with early-stage breast cancer and the BRCA mutations – who had completed standard treatment including chemotherapy – took part in the UK-led trial which saw half given Olaparib for a year and the rest a placebo.
Over the next three years, rates of relapse were 42 per cent lower in the group who received Olaparib. Fewer deaths were also reported in this group.
Olaparib exploits a weakness in cancer cells’ defence to kill a tumour without harming healthy tissue.
Study leader Professor Andrew Tutt, from London’s Institute of Cancer Research, said he was delighted with the trial results.
He added: ‘Olaparib has the potential to be used as a follow-on to all the standard initial breast cancer treatments to reduce the rate of life-threatening recurrence and cancer spread for many patients.’
Dr Simon Vincent, from Breast Cancer Now, said: ‘It’s extremely exciting that this ground-breaking study could pave the way for a targeted treatment for women with high-risk HER2 negative primary breast cancer with altered BRCA genes.’
Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, said: ‘Olaparib was the first cancer drug in the world to target inherited genetic faults.
‘It is also now the first targeted drug to have been shown to effectively treat patients with inherited mutations and early-stage breast cancer. I am keen to see this new treatment be approved and made available as fast as possible.’
The research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
‘Missile’ that targets prostate tumours
Thousands of men with advanced prostate cancer are expected to benefit from a radical radiotherapy treatment shown to extend life expectancy.
It uses radioactive molecules which act like a ‘guided missile’ to find and kill the cancer cells.
Results of the first major trial of the Lu-PSMA-617 therapy found it extends the life of men with advanced cancer by an average of four months. The findings were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference.
Study co-author Professor Johann de Bono of The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘This treatment acts like a guided missile – seeking out cancer cells.’
The radiotherapy targets a protein on the surface of the cancer cells called PSMA, blasting it with a radioactive isotope called Lutetium-177.
The trial involved 831 patients and was led by an international group including the Institute of Cancer Research in London.
The Mail is campaigning for urgent improvements in prostate cancer care.
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