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December 13, 2019

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New headway in breast cancer therapy

Experts from the Shanghai Cancer Center have announced that a new combined chemotherapy targeting the toughest type of breast cancer has yielded promising results. Specifically, the new treatment shows a five-year disease-free survival rate of 86.3 percent, compared with 80.4 percent from traditional therapy.

The news was released yesterday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, the highest level of forum on breast cancer in the world.

The research targeted triple-negative breast cancer, a type of breast cancer that does not express the genes for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors or HER2. For this type of cancer there is no targeted therapy, thus patients can only receive chemotherapy.

About 15 to 20 percent of patients with breast cancer have triple-negative breast cancer, and it is also the most fatal of all such cancers.

“Chemotherapy is the only treatment for patients with triple-negative breast cancer. Patients’ five-year disease-free survival rate has remained at 80 percent for a long time,” said Dr Shao Zhimin of the Shanghai Cancer Center. “Experts have tried to add other medications to the traditional therapy to increase survival, but without much success.”

Shao’s team made the breakthrough with capecitabine, a common chemotherapy medicine for late-stage relapsed breast cancer patients.

A clinical trial led by the center was conducted in 35 hospitals across China. During a five-year research program, a total of 585 patients participated in the trial and 297 used the new combined therapy.

The research found that those using the new therapy can reduce the possibility of relapse by 41 percent and the possibility of cancerous transfer by 37 percent.

“The five-year disease-free survival rate increased by over 5 percentage points, which means the new combined chemotherapy is effective, and patients didn’t report added complications,“ Shao said.

He said his team has capped genetic research on triple-negative breast cancer and created the world’s largest genomic mapping of the cancer. Next they will study subtypes of triple-negative breast cancer using the new combined chemotherapy in order to develop more precise treatment.


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