Targeted cancer therapies aim to best match the treatment to specific characteristics of cancer cells. Increasingly, breast cancer treatment is based on targeted therapy medications. With targeted therapy, the harm to healthy cells can be lessened and thus side effects can be less severe than from traditional chemotherapy.
Earlier this month, the FDA approved a new targeted therapy for BRCA-positive, HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer: Lynparza (olaparib). Previously, Lynparza was approved for treating some types of ovarian cancer. Lynparza is a PARP inhibitor. The PARP enzyme’s role is to fix DNA damage, but it does this fixing to both healthy and cancerous cells. By blocking this enzyme, Lynparza helps keep breast cancer cells from growing.
Just about a quarter of patients with hereditary breast cancers and up to one in every ten patients with any type of breast cancer have a BRCA mutation. Women with breast cancer can take a genetic blood test, called the BRACAnalysis CDx, which indicates whether Lynparza would be appropriate targeted cancer therapy for their breast cancer. The results with Lynparza are promising, with a reduction in disease progression or death by 42%, when compared to traditional chemotherapy.
This was not the only good news about breast cancer this month. Kisqali (ribociclib) from Novartis received FDA Breakthrough Therapy designation for initial endocrine-based treatment in premenopausal women with HR+/HER2- advanced breast cancer. Kisqali is a cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6 inhibitor (like the medication Ibrance), which means it works by blocking a certain protein needed in cell division.
The pipeline of new targeted therapies for breast cancer is important news, especially in light of the fact that premenopausal breast cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in women 20-59 years old.
By The Numbers
12.4% Women in the U.S. who will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in life
266,120 Number of new breast cancer patients estimated in 2018
3.1 million U.S. women with a history of breast cancer
85% Women who develop breast cancer despite no family history
FDA approves first treatment for breast cancer with a certain inherited genetic mutation. FDA News Release January 12, 2018.
Novartis Kisqali® received FDA Breakthrough Therapy designation for initial endocrine-based treatment in premenopausal women with HR+/HER2- advanced breast cancer. Press release January 3, 2018.