University of Manchester, UK

Recently, in a Cancer Research UK study at the University of Manchester, remarkable results were reported in a clinical study of HER2+ breast cancer. Using the existing drugs trastuzumab (Herceptin) and lapatinib (Tyverb) together right after diagnosis, a quarter of women treated saw tumors shrink considerably, or even disappear, after just an average of 11 days.

Herceptin and Tyverb are not new to breast cancer treatment, but this study shows the possible effects of combining the drugs immediately after diagnosis in a pre-operative treatment. The study included 257 newly diagnosed women with operable, HER2+ tumors. Diagnoses were confirmed with biopsy.

While the trial was not originally designed to study these 2 drugs in this setting, the study was amended midway through as new data showed the synergistic effects of the drug combination. The women were randomized to a control group (no pre-operative treatment), Herceptin only, or the combination treatment for 11 days. Both groups proceeded to undergo surgical resection and receive standard treatment after surgery.

Among those women who received both drugs, 11% had a pathological complete response after surgery and 17% had minimal residual disease. In the control group, nobody showed either response.