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Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Breast Cancer Channel
Reported November 2, 2012

Shrinking Tumors without Side Effects!


(Ivanhoe Newswire) – If dealing with one diagnosis of cancer is not hard enough, imagine being told you have two different kinds of tumors. It’s estimated 20 to 30 percent of women with advanced breast cancer develop secondary brain tumors, cancers that have spread to the brain from somewhere else in the body, and those with the HER-2 gene are most at risk. Now, new research shows two drug combinations could shrink those tumors with minimal side effects. 
"As women live longer with advanced cancer the occurrence of brain metastases is becoming increasingly common,” Thomas Bachelot from the Centre Léon Bérard in Lyon, France, who led the research, was quoted as saying. "Traditionally, most of these women receive WBRT which can impair cognitive function. “
The study conducted by the French cooperative group UNICANCER found the combination of lapatinib and capecitabine had similar responses rates to whole brain radiation therapy.
“Delaying such a treatment for those patients is potentially a big advance," Bachelot was quoted as saying.
They tested 45 patients, all with previously untreated brain metastases from HER2-positive breast cancer who were treated with a daily combination of lapatinib and capecitabine. Researchers found the combination shrunk brain tumours by at least 50% in two-thirds of women with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer, with a fifth of patients experiencing at least 80% reduction in tumour size, but with manageable side effects.
About half of patients experienced at least one grade 3 or 4 side effect, the most common being diarrhea and hand-foot syndrome, leading to treatment discontinuation in four women.
"This strategy deserves further evaluation to confirm the clinical benefits in terms of survival, cognitive function, and quality of life,” Bachelot was quoted as saying.
Scientists from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria suggest the findings are very significant and some women could be spared from having radiotherapy. 
"For patients with multiple brain metastases from HER2-positive breast cancer presenting with minimal clinical symptoms and good performance status, primary systemic treatment containing lapatinib and capecitabine might already be a valid treatment option," they were quoted as saying. 
Source:  Lancet Oncology
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