Monday, July 11, 2011

The Breast Cancer News Update: July 11

Afinitor, also known as everolimus or RAD001, has been making breast cancer news lately. Today, we'll look at the latest news as well as the biology and the history of development of Afinitor for the treatment of breast cancer. All news and research may be found on the Afinitor (everolimus, RAD001) page of the website.

Afinitor: A little biology

Basically, Afinitor targets the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), a protein kinase. According to a nice summary on Inhibiting the PI3K/Akt/mTOR Signaling Pathway from the National Cancer Institute, "mTOR is a critical regulator of several normal cell processes." Essentially, mTOR receives growth signals and regulates cell division, metabolism and blood vessel growth. In cancer cells, the signalling pathway that includes mTOR can become "highly active," resulting in a poor prognosis and increased likelihood of resistance to many types of therapy. Afinitor treats breast cancer by inhibiting mTOR.

The latest Afinitor news: Two studies for metastatic breast cancer

Last week, there were two announcements of positive study results of Afinitor for metastatic breast cancer.

Afinitor plus Aromasin for hormone therapy resistant breast cancer

On July 5, Reuters and RTT News covered results from a phase III study of Afinitor plus Aromasin (exemestane) to treat advanced cancer that had progressed on hormone therapy. The study was halted when its primary endpoint of progression free survival was met ahead of schedule. For women with resistance to hormonal therapy, the addition of Afinitor "has the potential to extend the time until chemotherapy is needed."

Aromasin plus Herceptin for Herceptin resistant breast cancer

On July 8, MD Anderson announced, via EurekAlert!, positive results of a phase I/II study involving the addition of Afinitor to Herceptin (trastuzumab) for HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer that had been resistant to previous Herceptin-based therapy. Despite the fact that most of the women in the study had received "multiple chemotherapy regimens," this "chemotherapy-free option" offered "additional clinical benefit and less toxicity for many" of the patients. Thirty-four percent of the women in the study benefited from the combination.

Afinitor Research History

One of the really unique features of the website is that it's very easy to see the entire history of the development of a drug. Afinitor is a good example. The development history can be seen under both the News Articles and Medical Journal Abstracts tabs.

Early research of Afinitor plus Aromasin or Herceptin

To learn more about the history of Afinitor plus Aromasin, we may look under the News tab to see a December 2010 Medical News Today story about the phase II study.

To see the early, pre-clinical research on Afinitor plus Herceptin, a December 2009 Clinical Cancer Research study, found the combination to be effective for the treatment of HER2 positive breast cancer in mice.

Afinitor plus Taxol and Herceptin

Both of the combinations above are chemotherapy-free options. Afinitor is also being studied in combination with Taxol (paclitaxel), a chemotherapy. Under the News tab, we see links to December 2008 and October 2009 Medical News Today coverage of early studies of the combination of Afinitor, Taxol (paclitaxel), and Herceptin. The October 2010 Journal of Clinical Oncology abstract of the phase I study can be found under the Medical Journal Abstracts tab.

Neoadjuvant (before surgery) therapy

Looking under the Medical Journal Abstracts tab, it is clear that Afinitor is not just being studied for advanced breast cancer. An April 2009 Journal of Clinical Oncology phase II study discovered that the addition of Afinitor "significantly increased" the efficacy of Femara (letrozole) in neoadjuvant therapy in postmenopausal women with operable breast cancer.

Similarly, an October 2010 Breast Cancer Research and Treatment study gave a small number of postmenopausal women with early breast cancer Afinitor alone once a day for 14 days before surgery. The treatment "significantly decreased proliferation," particularly for HER2 postitive cancer and tumors with high Ki67 and p-AKT.

Reviews of the history and future of Afinitor

Not all medical journal abstracts are studies. Often, scientists review all of the research on a treatment or type of treatment. Reviews often explain the biology, history and future potential for a new drug. Several such reviews exist for Afinitor. Under the Medical Journal Abstracts tab, we see reviews published in The Oncologist, Clinical Breast Cancer, the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, Breast Cancer Research, the Annals of Oncology, Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Seminars in Oncology.

At, we'll continue to follow developments in Afinitor for breast cancer. All future news and research will be added to the Afinitor page of our website. Please stay tuned.

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