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One in five breast cancer patients not receiving new treatment that could benefit them

According to Scientists, up to one in five women with breast cancer could benefit from a type of treatment currently only given to patients with a rare form of the disease caused by gene mutation.

A study by Dr Serena Nik-Zainal, at the Sanger Institute in Cambridgeshire, UK, and her team has found that drugs designed to treat less common cases of breast cancer, caused by faulty genes, may also help women with more common forms of the disease.

For the latest work, published in the journal Nature Medicine, the researchers looked at the genetic make-up of breast cancer in 560 different patients. They found a significant proportion of them had genetic errors or "mutational signatures" that were very similar to faulty BRCA.

Dr Nik-Zainal has said: “Our study shows that there are many more people who have cancers that look like they have the same weaknesses as patients with faulty BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

“We should explore if they could also benefit from PARP inhibitors.”

Dr Nik-Zainal added: “PARP inhibitors are important for quality of life because they specifically target cancer cells and so are well tolerated.

“I feel so strongly about the fact that one in five women might benefit from these drugs. A lot of people who could be getting these treatments are not being offered them.”

One biological therapy or PARP inhibitor, called olaparib, is already used on the NHS to treat advanced ovarian cancer. It is not yet approved as a breast cancer drug, although some UK women are taking it in clinical trials.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of the charity Breast Cancer Now, said she hoped the findings could lead to a “watershed moment” in the treatment of the disease.

“PARP inhibitors are a very promising treatment on the horizon and the suggestion that more patients may be able to benefit from them is greatly exciting,” she said.

“Crucially, this study is an early but encouraging step towards being able to offer women treatments targeted to the genetic make-up of their breast cancer.”

A lot more evidence will have to be collected before guidelines on the use of PARP inhibitors could be changed so we are very hopeful that this study will encourage further research into the treatment of breast cancer.

Melanie Lidstone-Land and the Clinical Negligence team at Swain & Co Solicitors regularly win compensation for their clients who have experienced substandard treatment or a failure to provide treatment. If you, a family member or a friend have experienced problems regarding substandard medical treatment contact our team today on 023 92 483322.

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