Patients at Yeovil Hospital have taken part in a clinical research trial that could reduce treatment times and side effects for many women in the future.
The trial tested reducing the length of time patients with HER2 positive breast cancer took Herceptin following treatment, a drug that is used to help prevent the cancer returning, from 12 months to six month.
The £2.6 million study recruited more than 4,000 women with HER2 positive early-stage breast cancer and demonstrated that the shorter treatment gave similar results to the longer treatment – significantly reducing treatment by six months. This is the largest trial of its kind.
Dr Barthakur, Consultant Oncologist at Yeovil Hospital said: “We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to run the NIHR funded ‘Persephone’ trial at our unit in Yeovil. We were one of 152 centres in the UK to take part and are very grateful to the 35 Yeovil patients who participated and contributed to the total of 4,088 patients from across the UK.
“The trial showed that six months of treatment was as good as 12 months, with potentially reduced side effects and is the largest trial of its kind. This result is important as it means there may be potential to reduce treatment duration and side effects for at least some women with HER 2+ve early breast cancer in the future. These trial results will lead to further discussion, debate and scrutiny of data as the next step would be to work out which patients can have just six months of treatment and which will need the full 12 months.”
The trial was led by a team from the University of Cambridge and the Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Warwick. It found that 89.4% of patients taking six months treatment were free of breast cancer after four years compared with 89.8% of patients taking treatment for twelve months. These results show that women who took Herceptin for six months fared no worse than patients who had standard 12 months treatment in terms of breast cancer returning. In addition, only three per cent of women receiving the six month treatment had to stop taking the drug because of heart problems compared with eight per cent in the 12 month cycle. This trial mapped onto standard practice in the NHS where both chemotherapy and Herceptin are given before or after surgery. The patients who took the Herceptin for six months also significantly reduced treatment related side effects, including heart problems.
Herceptin has been a major breakthrough, prolonging and saving the lives of women with breast cancers that carry the HER2 receptor on the surface of their cancer cells. Around 15 out of every 100 women with early breast cancers have HER2 positive disease. Herceptin works by preventing the cancer cells from growing and dividing.
Cost savings for six months Herceptin compared with 12 months has been estimated at £9,699 per patient but the most important element is that patients will require less hospital appointments with lower risks to their heart function and are likely to experience less side effects, improving their experience of their treatment.
Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician Professor Charles Swanton said: “Cancer Research UK’s work paved the way for the development of Herceptin, which has saved the lives of many thousands of women with breast cancer. But despite years of research, we haven’t been able to establish the optimal duration of Herceptin treatment, either to delay cancer coming back or to cure patients with early HER2 positive breast cancer following surgery.
“These eagerly anticipated results give the breast cancer research community an opportunity to reassess how long to give this targeted therapy to patients to see them living longer and with a better quality of life.
“The important next steps are to work out which patients can stop Herceptin at six months and which need extended therapy.”
Kerry Rennie, Senior Research Nurse said: “It’s important to remember that the research trials of today are vitally important; they provide the evidence for treatments and practice in the future. We know from our interaction with the public and patients at Yeovil Hospital that they are very supportive of research. Being able to offer research opportunities for patients at their local hospital is really important.
“Taking part in research opportunities can be very rewarding; patients may find it helpful in understanding their condition better, may receive treatments that are not yet widely available and feel like they are giving something back to the NHS by helping researchers to develop new treatments and ways of working.
“More information on how to get involved in research is available here and we would encourage anyone interested in getting involved in research to contact us.”
Categorised in: Trust news and events
This post was written by Communications Team