The findings from a new clinical trial were presented this week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago. The trial showed that the addition of a drug called Kisqali (ribociclib) to standard hormone therapy has the capability of lengthening the lives of younger women with advanced breast cancer. The trial’s findings will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The trial was led by Dr. Debu Tripathy, chair of the breast medical oncology department at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. All of the women participating in the trial received standard hormonal therapy, in addition to a medication that turns off the ovaries' production of estrogen. Dr. Tripathy’s team also gave half of the women Kisqali and half a placebo.
Kisqali is taken as a tablet and is in a class of drugs called CDK4/6 inhibitors; it functions by blocking two proteins that help cancer cells grow and divide.
The trial found that on average, the women who received Kisqali lived six months longer than women in the control group. After 3.5 years, 70% of patients given hormone therapy plus Kisqali were still alive, compared to 46% of those given hormone therapy alone.
"In reality, what this means is if we get a confirmation from the bigger trial, then this could well lead to a change in the standard of care across the world,” said Dr. Rob Jones, trial co-leader and a consultant in oncology. "When you're given a diagnosis of cancer that is incurable, any extension of life is incredibly important," he added. "We've talked about averages but there are plenty of examples in the trial of patients who have lived for two or three years without their disease yet progressing."
The researchers hope that this trial will provide enough evidence to make significant changes in the standard of care offered to premenopausal women with advanced breast cancer. They hope it will extend worldwide.