Irish patients will be the first in the world to take part in a new trial, which aims to treat one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer, the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) has announced.
The study will involve women with advanced triple negative breast cancer, which is often aggressive and difficult to treat. Around 250 women are newly diagnosed in Ireland every year and the disease tends to be more common in younger women.
The participants on this trial will be treated with the drug COTI-2, in combination with chemotherapy, at St Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin.
The research around this drug was carried out by Dr Naoise Synnott in St Vincent's and University College Dublin (UCD). Her work has been funded by the ICS's BREAST-PREDICT research programme and the Clinical Cancer Research Trust.
"News like this shows the positive difference cancer research is making for Irish people. Everyone who has donated to the ICS can feel a part of making this clinical trial a reality.
"But we want to do more. Every year we have to turn away researchers who come to us with potentially life-saving projects, simply because we don't have enough funds to support them," commented ICS chief executive, Averil Power.
Caitriona Plunkett, a Dublin mother of two, was just 35 when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in the summer of 2016. She subsequently underwent chemotherapy, a mastectomy and reconstruction before being given the all-clear later that year.
"When I found out I had cancer I was terrified, but in the end I'm one of the lucky ones - it was caught early, making treatment more effective. Supports like the ICS's Cancer Nurseline got my family and me through this tough time, and we're stronger now as a result.
"Not everyone with this cancer is as lucky though. I've seen first hand the devastating effects that treatments for this disease can have, and if they don't work, the outcome is heartbreaking. That's why clinical trials that give hope for better, less harsh treatments, are so important," Ms Plunkett explained.
According to one of the study's supervisors, Prof Joe Duffy, currently, the only form of treatment available to patients with this type of cancer is chemotherapy.
"While this will work well for some patients, others may find that their cancer cells don't respond as well as might be hoped to chemo, leading to patients suffering the side-effects of this treatment without any of the desired outcomes.
"Dr Synnott's laboratory work looked at p53, a gene which is altered in almost all cases of triple-negative breast cancer. She found that the drug COTI-2 is effective at stopping this gene and killing these cancer cells. Together with further studies in the US, results proved positive enough for early-stage clinical trials to begin," he said.
The trial hopes to begin recruiting patients later this year. It will be aimed at women those cancer has spread beyond the breast.
Any cancer patients with queries about clinical trials should talk to their medical team. They can also contact the ICS's Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700. Lines are open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.
For information on cancer trials currently open in Ireland, click here.
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