News digest – NHS drug decisions, leukaemia treatment trials and long term anastrozole benefits

Thursday, December 26th 2019. | cancer

Breast cancer cells

Focusing on a cancer cure masks progress, says charity

The Institute of Cancer Research has warned that focusing on the cure for cancer as the ‘holy grail’ of cancer research has undermined people’s understanding of how much progress has been made in the field. Researchers conducted a survey which analysed the public and patient opinion of cancer as a long-term, manageable disease. Reported in The Guardian, the results showed that only 28 out of 100 of people believe cancers can be controlled long-term despite the fact that, on average, people are living for more than 10 years after a cancer diagnosis.

Breast cancer treatment combo approved for NHS use in England

A third treatment combination has been approved for some patients with advanced breast cancer on the NHS in England, the Daily Mail reports. The treatment, which combines the targeted drug palbociclib and an injectable hormone therapy, was already an option for women who had not yet received hormone therapy but will now be available to those who have already completed this treatment. Similar drug combinations were approved for use for the same group of women earlier this year. The combination should also be available soon to patients in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Olaparib made more widely available on the NHS

More people with advanced ovarian cancer in Scotland will be able to benefit from a targeted cancer treatment, reports BBC Scotland. The drug, olaparib, which had previously been available to women whose cancer had come back after initial treatment, will now be an option for people with newly-diagnosed ovarian cancer that’s begun to spread to other parts of the body. Our news report has the details.

Olaparib has also been made more widely available on the NHS in England. It will now be an option for people whose cancer has come back after initial treatment, to help prolong the effects of chemotherapy.

New drug ‘starves’ triple negative breast cancer in mice

Researchers in the US have discovered a new way to stop triple negative breast cancer cells growing in the lab. The drug, which tags a key protein for destruction in cancer cells, also slowed tumour growth in mice with breast cancer, reports the Mail Online. It’s a fascinating new approach to treating breast cancer, but it’s still early days. The drug will need to be put to the test in clinical trials to see if it’s safe and can have the same benefits in people with breast cancer.

Children born from frozen embryos could be more likely to develop cancer

A Danish study carried out between 1996-2012 found that children born from frozen embryos following IVF were more than twice as likely to develop childhood cancer than those conceived naturally. But although the numbers reported in The Telegraph may sound alarming, childhood cancers are rare and so the actual risk of a child developing cancer is still very small.

New targeted treatment tested for leukaemia

A new drug for treating chronic myeloid leukaemia has been shown to be well tolerated in an early stage clinical trial. The study, which involved 150 patients who had already been treated with multiple drugs, found that asciminib was effective at killing cancer cells, without inadvertently killing healthy cells too. But despite the headline in the Express, it’s still early days yet. The drug needs to be tested in a larger group of people to see if it can help improve survival.

And finally…

New findings suggest that anastrozole, which can reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer, continues to work for years after women stop taking it. Anastrozole blocks the production of the hormone oestrogen in post-menopausal women and is already available on the NHS, but BBC News report that only 1 in 10 women who are eligible for the drug have been taking it. Experts commented that while both anastrozole and a different drug, tamoxifen, can be taken by women with a higher risk of breast cancer, up until now doctors only knew about the long-term benefits of tamoxifen.

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