Cancer breakthrough as ‘dual-action’ treatment to revolutionise fight against disease

Amanda Mealing discusses her breast cancer diagnosis

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The potentially revolutionary method was developed by scientists at Scripps Research in Florida to target estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells in new ways. Drugs like tamoxifen, fulvestrant or anastrozole are frequently prescribed in these cases. But, over time, some breast cancers can develop resistance, through inflammatory processes.

Lead author Kendall Nettles said: “Hormone therapies for breast cancer have been one of the greatest success stories of molecularly targeted medicines.

“But a significant fraction of patients don’t respond to these therapies.

“There’s a continued unmet medical need for better hormone therapies.

“This represents the first change in approach in 20 years.”

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK.

Around one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.

Some types of breast cancer are affected by hormones, like estrogen and progesterone.

The cancer cells have proteins that attach to estrogen and progesterone, which helps them grow.

The compounds developed by Prof Nettles her colleagues work by interfering with estrogen’s ability to activate its cellular receptor in the traditional way, as seen with the hormone therapy tamoxifen, but also by a second inhibitory mechanism.

Tests in cells showed greater efficacy in the presence of drug-resistance mechanisms.

Depending on a patient’s age, and whether that patient is a woman who has passed menopause, doctors will prescribe either a group of medicines called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), such as tamoxifen, or ones called selective estrogen receptor down-regulators (SERDs) such as fulvestrant

But the new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says one-third d of women with early-stage breast cancer treated with tamoxifen developed resistance to the drug within two to five years.

Prof Nettles said a new treatment was urgently needed.

She added: “We’re hopeful this could be a breakthrough for treatment-resistant breast cancer.

“With a new mechanism of action, the compounds do what you could expect from combining two different drugs, but in one molecule.”

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Breast cancer can have several symptoms, but the first noticeable symptom is usually a lump or area of thickened breast tissue.

Most breast lumps are not cancerous, but it’s always best to have them checked by a doctor.

You should also see a GP if you are concerned about any possible symptoms.

It comes after doctors announced aspirin may help fight aggressive breast cancer by making hard-to-treat tumours more responsive to anti-cancer drugs.

A team at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust, in Manchester, are beginning a trial with triple-negative breast cancer patients.

They suspect it is aspirin’s anti-inflammatory properties rather than its analgesic effect that gives the boost.

There is some evidence aspirin might help prevent certain other cancers and lower the risk of it spreading.

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