New drugs transforming treatment for advanced breast cancer patients

Posted 23 May 2016.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Advanced breast cancer patients in Perth are the first in Australia to be benefiting from exciting new drug treatments according to a local cancer researcher.   

Dr Andy Redfern, who is a Cancer Council Clinical Research Fellow and medical oncologist at Fiona Stanley Hospital, said the landscape for these drugs is evolving rapidly, particularly for women with estrogen driven breast cancer.

“It’s fair to say the positive results we’re seeing from clinical trials are heralding a new era of treatment for women with this disease and the prospects for increasing their survival have never looked brighter,” said Dr Redfern.

Dr Redfern has been involved in a number of clinical trials for these drugs and he has recently published papers in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology reviewing the literature around all new drugs being tested for these patients.

He said while the initial results are promising with increasing numbers of women experiencing control of their cancers for several years on these drugs, there were also encouraging signs regarding the potential of these drugs to eventually cure these advanced cancers.

Dr Redfern is a member of the scientific advisory committee for the Australia New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group and a member of research advisory committees for the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Cancer Council WA.

Following successful clinical trials, the drug  everolimus (tested in  the Bollero studies) are being prescribed, fully funded, to some women with advanced estrogen-driven breast cancer in WA.

A second drug, palbociclib (from the Paloma studies), looks set to also become part of everyday treatments following the completion of another successful clinical trial.

He said the exciting results from the most recent trials in advanced breast cancer have paved the way for a series of new trials, some now opening at Fiona Stanley Hospital, looking at the effectiveness of these drugs to improve cure rates for women diagnosed with early breast cancer.

“We are now reaching a point where we are almost spoilt for choice with several new medications, each working in a different way, showing improved cancer control when added to our previous best treatments like tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors.

“The next challenge is to pick the best combination of these new medications to give each individual woman the most benefit with the minimum possible side effects,” said Dr Redfern. 

Cancer Council contributes $500,000 to Dr Redfern’s research over five years.  He is jointly supported by the WA Department of Health and the University of WA. Dr Redfern said funding from Cancer Council was vital in allowing him to conduct these clinical trials which are paving the way for future treatment options for cancer patients.

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