Friday, March 6, 2015

BREAST CANCER: HER2 Possible Cure From "Mom's Pills?"

Two recently published studies led by Mt. Sinai researchers may offer new hope from "old medicine" for cancers including a quarter of breast cancers.  Their report: Repurposing a Drug to Prevent and Treat Cancers, refers to their work with bisphosphonates--the osteoporosis drugs.

So it was not a surprise to learn that lead study author and professor Mone Zaidi, MD, PhD, FRCP, also heads the Mt. Sinai Bone Program.  The surprise was reading the cautious statement that

           "Bisphosphonates have been previously associated with slower 
tumor growth in some patients..."  

I dug around some.  Found tumors in a bone treatment article on OncoLink, a site of The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania  Last Modified: December 18, 2014. 

They were cautious, too.  But down in the bisphosphonates section I found:

"Bisphosphonates may have some level of anti-tumor activity in breast cancer. A recent Phase III clinical trial revealed that the addition of Zometa to endocrine therapy, improves disease-free pre-menopausal patients with estrogen-receptor positive early breast cancer."  

Since my DCIS was hormone receptive, that sounded like good news for me.  However their mention of other clinical trials in progress at the time, does not include HER2.  

So I was back to the Mt. Sinai research:

You probably know that HERs are human epidermal growth factor receptors.  The Mt. Sinai article outlines their first study, that revealed how bisphosphonates work.

With that study's discoveries, and with the knowledge that twenty five per cent of breast cancers "proceed from genetic changes that result in excessive amounts of HER2" they started the second study.

The researchers went into the labs, which revealed:

 Giving mice bisphosphonates early on prevented HER-driven tumors from forming, and combining bisphosphonates with the cancer drug Tarceva® not only stopped tumor growth but reversed it. 

So now we wait.  Dr. Zaidi reminds us we may get this Bc treatment 

     "... if we can confirm in clinical trials that this drug class also reduces 
cancer growth in people.”

We can’t know how long it will be before their trials are up and running.  Some women will undoubtedly comb the web and learn more before I do.  Please share what you learn with us.

I wish you health.

PS If you are on Twitter, check out the great"cartoon style" dwgs on immune checkpoints & how they work @JAMAOnc

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