News from the 35th annual ESMO (European Society of Medical Oncology) Congress in Milan:
• Adding the PARP inhibitor iniparib to chemotherapy added five months to overall survival of patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. What’s even better is that complete or partial response or stable disease was achieved in 55.7 percent of the women, compared with chemotherapy alone. (Complete response: the disease has completely disappeared—no disease is evident on examination, scans or other tests; Partial response: some disease remains in the body, but it has decreased by 30 percent or more in size or number of lesions. Stable disease: the disease has remained unchanged in size and number of lesions.A less than 50 percent decrease or a slight increase in size is generally considered stable disease.) Two phase III studies on iniparib and triple-negative are ongoing. The study was presented by John Pippen, MD, of Texas Oncology, Dallas.
• Adding cetuximab to cisplatin chemotherapy doubled the response rate in women with metastatic triple-negative. Cetuximab targets the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). The results come from a phase II randomized trial of 173 women and included researchers from Spain, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, the UK and Israel. Cetuximab is marketed by Merck under the brand name Erbitux. Merck tried last year to market the drug for lung cancer but failed to win approval.
• Eribulin, a microtubule inhibitor, improved outcomes of all metastatic breast cancer patients, but was most effective against hormone-negative. Estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor negative patients receiving eribulin rather than the physician’s standard choice of chemotherapy had a 34 percent decreased risk of death. The results were part of the EMBRACE (Eisai Metastatic Breast Cancer Study Assessing Physician’s Choice versus Eribulin E7389) study, a phase III clinical trial.