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New Insights, Inroads Against Breast, Ovarian Cancers
Date:5/31/2009

urham, N.C. Still, "I doubt every treating oncologist will stop using this to follow treatment."

Another oncologist agreed. "This study suggests that early detection of metastatic cancer did not improve survival," said Dr. Claudine Isaacs, a medical oncologist with Georgetown's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the usefulness of CA125 in initial cervical cancer screening remains "questionable."

But there was good news at the meeting for women battling tough-to-treat breast cancers.

Two new studies found promising results with an entirely new class of drugs, called PARP inhibitors -- the first targeted therapy for so-called "triple-negative" breast cancer. Currently, the 15 percent of breast cancer patients who have this type of aggressive tumor have only the option of surgery and chemotherapy.

Breast cancers associated with the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 gene mutations (which heighten risk) are almost always triple negative, explained Dr. Joyce O'Shaughnessy, lead author of one of the studies and co-director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at Baylor-Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center in Dallas.

About 30 percent of women with triple negative cancer experience a recurrence and, once that happens, only survive a year or so.

In this phase II trial, half of the 120 women with this form of metastatic breast cancer were randomized to receive chemo alone, the other half to chemo plus the PARP inhibitor BSI-201.

Those receiving the combination therapy saw almost a doubling of their survival -- from 5.7 months with chemo alone to 9.2 months when BSI-201 was added in, as well as about a 60 percent reduction in the risk of dying from the disease. There were also no additional side effects as compared with standard chemo.

The second phase II PARP inhibitor trial involved 54 women with advance breast cancer who carried the BRCA1/2 mutations. In this trial, t
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