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Advances in treatment for advanced breast cancer

Researchers from The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust have been involved in a seminal trial investigating new pioneering treatment for advanced breast cancer. 

11 December 2019

The study analysed the impact of Tucatinib for patients with HER2 positive breast cancer, with and without brain metastases, who had already received previous treatment. 

Co-author Dr Alicia Okines, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust said: “We found Tucatinib was more likely to shrink the tumour, and saw evidence that it was able to stem the progression of the disease for longer than in the placebo group. For these women, where there is currently no next stage of targeted anti-HER2 treatment, this is a significant finding showing genuine benefit. Most importantly it showed women who received the Tucatinib lived a number of months longer.” 

Dr Okines, who is also a Team Leader for Breast Cancer Systemic Therapy Trials at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, travelled to the 2019 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium where data from the trial was presented, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

“Sadly many women with HER2 positive advanced breast cancer will see it spread to the brain during the course of their illness,” Dr Okines adds. “Usually this is treated with radiotherapy, sometimes requiring repeat treatments. There is however a limit to the amount of radiotherapy that can be safely delivered to the brain, and so we need more treatments that can penetrate brain disease more effectively. In our trial we also found that the combination of drugs with Tucatinib was significantly effective at controlling the disease where it had spread to the brain.”

“At The Royal Marsden we’re focused on collaborating with our international colleagues to carry out pioneering research. Studies such as this means we can develop smarter, better and kinder treatments for our patients, to help them live longer with fewer side effects.”

 

At The Royal Marsden we’re focused on collaborating with our international colleagues to carry out pioneering research

Dr Alicia Okines, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

Linda, 59 from Essex, has been treated for HER2 positive breast cancer at The Royal Marsden since 2004. After successful treatment and in remission for 10 years, the cancer returned. Linda was then offered the opportunity to go onto the trial at The Royal Marsden. So far she is doing really well and her disease has not progressed further.

"I remember when I was first diagnosed my consultant at The Royal Marsden said there was a high chance of it coming back. But he said that there were lots of treatments in the pipeline and reassured me there would be options. He was right; when my breast cancer returned in 2014 I was offered the chance to go on a clinical trial. Thankfully it's kept my cancer in check. I still come in for regular scans and treatment, but otherwise have been able to get on with my life.

"I think research is so important. It's only thanks to the virtue of other people that my treatment exists, so I think it's really important for me to give back. Unless people get involved and do trials, how are we going to make progress?

"It's one of the reasons I was glad to be treated at The Royal Marsden. I know it carried out a lot of research and had the best experts. Personally the teams there have always been wonderful. Everyone from the nurses to reception teams would say hello; I've just always felt so supported.”