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Hope Emerges Against Metastatic Breast Cancer

Thanks to research, a drug has been created with an effectiveness never seen before against this disease that affects millions of women in the world .

Woman wearing pink t-shirt and breast cancer awareness ribbon

Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Ángel Hernández Liborio

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Leer en español: Surge una esperanza contra el cáncer de mama metastásico

A new opportunity of life has been opened for millions of women with breast cancer in the world. This thanks to a drug developed after research funded by the British pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca and the Japanese company Daiichi Sankyo . The drug has passed the first safety and efficacy controls in the Destiny Breast-03 clinical trial with promising results that generate confidence in the medical community as an advanced option against the disease.

What is metastatic breast cancer?

Before talking about the drug itself, it is important to know the numbers of breast cancer in the world, to have a better perspective of the impact that the new drug will generate in the medical community. To begin with, cancer is the main public health problem in the world , according to the medical journal of the American Cancer Society, which estimates that in 2022 there will be more than 290,000 new cases of breast cancer in the United States alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in 2020, 2.3 million cases of this type of cancer were diagnosed worldwide, of which 685 ended in death. From 2015 to 2020, 7.8 million women have survived the disease, which makes it the most prevalent cancer in the world, according to the organization. 

Breast cancer occurs when breast cells grow abnormally, the accumulation of these generates lumps that are one of the most common symptoms. One of the greatest risks is metastasis, that is, the spread of this abnormal growth to other parts of the body , according to the Mayo Clinic, which becomes a serious situation, hence the importance of the new drug. Although the causes are not completely clear, there are factors that increase the risk of breast cancer: being a woman, especially older adults, obesity, family history, genetics, radiation and even not having gotten pregnant before the age of 30, although in the end, the unpredictable interaction between these factors and the environment could be the triggers.

Trastuzumab Deruxtecan and its promising results

The drug works by reaching abnormal cells to attack the HER2 protein that speeds up tumor growth, and then attacking with chemotherapy contained in the same drug. The drug was put to the test in an investigation led by a team from the International Breast Cancer Center led by its director, Dr. Javier Cortés. The results of the Destiny Breast-03 clinical trial were recently published in the New England Medical Journal, one of the most prestigious in the medical world. In the third phase of the trial, 524 metastatic cancer patients from 15 countries participated.

The third phase of the study was carried out between 2018 and 2020, the 524 patients were divided into two groups, one was treated with Trastuzumab Deruxtecan , the new drug, while the other was treated with Trastuzumab Emtansine , a drug with similar technology that is still the standard for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. Two statistics have been fundamental in the results presented, the new drug doubled the control of the disease compared to the standard drug, with 75.8% and 34.1%, respectively. The other relevant data is the survival rate, which is 94.1% with the new drug compared to 85.9% with the standard one, according to the study.

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When will it be available?

Even after successfully passing the third phase of clinical trials, each of the covid-19 vaccines had to be approved by the drug regulatory bodies in each country. With Trastuzumab Deruxtecan the situation will not be different, since it is a trial carried out in Spain, it must be approved by the European Medicines Agency, which will facilitate its entry into other non-EU territories such as the United States and Latin America.

For this reason, it is still difficult to talk about costs and availability, however, the drug has set an important precedent to be applied in cases of metastatic cancer in other parts of the body and even for tumors without metastasis, which could increase its effectiveness by stopping the progression of cancer before one of the most dangerous stages occurs. Finally, the technology could in the future be applied to diseases other than cancer, for now, it has already become a solid hope for millions of women fighting breast cancer.