A major clinical trial has reported that women with advanced triple-negative breast cancer who have faults in their BRCA genes do much better on the chemotherapy drug carboplatin than standard treatment.
In this study, the researchers discovered that advanced ‘triple-negative’ breast cancer patients who have inherited a BRCA mutation are twice as likely to benefit from carboplatin as docetaxel.
The findings, published recently in Nature Medicine are expected to change international clinical practice guidelines; ensuring that women with triple-negative breast cancer who are young or with a family history are considered for BRCA testing.
When analyzing the response in the 376 women with advanced triple-negative breast cancer across the trial, regardless of BRCA gene status, the researchers discovered that the two drugs worked similarly well.
However, among the 43 women in the study who also had BRCA gene faults, those who received carboplatin were twice as likely to respond to therapy as those given docetaxel.
In these women, tumours shrank in 68% of the patients treated with carboplatin, but only 33% of the women on docetaxel.
Carboplatin also had fewer side-effects and delayed tumour progression for longer in women with BRCA gene faults – stalling tumour growth for approximately 7 months, compared with 4 months for docetaxel.
The team believe that carboplatin is more effective for this patient group because it works by damaging tumour DNA – and BRCA mutations impair the ability of cancer cells to repair the type of DNA damage created by this ‘platinum’ drug.