Breast cancer recurrence is relatively common, especially when the disease is identified early, and the prospect can be scary for survivors.
A drug developed by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis has just been shown to reduce this risk by 25% in a large sample of early-stage survivors, offering patients new hope.
The results of the study were presented on Friday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) annual meeting.
Rita Nanda, an ASCO expert who was not involved in the study, referred to the investigation of ribociclib as a “very important and practice-changing clinical trial.” Ribociclib is a pharmaceutical that belongs to the more recent family of drugs known as molecularly targeted therapies.
The two million new cases of breast cancer that are diagnosed worldwide each year are almost all in the stages I through III of the disease.
“The current standard of therapy for these patients is surgery followed by chemotherapy… or radiation, followed by between five and ten years of hormonal blockade by various endocrine therapies,” says senior author Dennis Slamon of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Centre.
For stage I and stage III, respectively, the risk of recurrence is as high as one in three, with the cancer frequently returning decades later.
“After an early breast cancer diagnosis, patients live with a persistent and lifelong worry that their cancer will return,” said Fran Visco, president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition and a participant on the committee for the current study.
The clinical trial included more than 5,100 patients with stage II and stage III HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer, the most common subtype accounting for more than 70% of all breast cancer cases in the United States.
Half of the patients received ribociclib, marketed as Kisqali, while the other half received only hormone therapy. They persisted over the entire three-year therapy period.