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Exploring your options for breast cancer clinical trials

October 20, 2017 Wellness Articles

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may have heard about clinical trials through your own personal research or through a member of your cancer care team. Clinical trials are studies in which people volunteer to test new drugs or devices to help doctors develop new or more effective treatments for chronic or serious diseases.

“Clinical trials are a way for us to improve cancer treatment for patients now as well as in the future,” explains Elene Turzo, MSN, CRNP, division manager of cancer clinical trials at Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR), based at Main Line Health’s Lankenau Medical Center. “Every patient who enrolls in a clinical trial helps us get one step closer to better understanding of new ways to detect, diagnose and treat disease.”

And importantly, clinical trials may present patients with new options for treatment.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and are considering a clinical trial, LIMR’s breast cancer clinical trial options may be of interest to you. Most of these trials are available at Main Line Health’s four hospital campuses: Lankenau Medical Center, and Bryn Mawr, Paoli and Riddle hospitals.

Clinical Trial EA1131

The most successful treatment for breast cancer target three receptors: estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and human epidermal grown factor receptor 2. More simply, these receptors are referred to as ER, PR and HER2.

Unfortunately, none of these receptors are found in people who are diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. While this can make the cancer more difficult to target, there is one treatment that remains effective in treating triple-negative breast cancer: chemotherapy. In some instances, chemotherapy can be more effective in patients with triple-negative breast cancer than with other forms of cancer.

This trial seeks to understand what chemotherapy drugs are most effective in the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer.

Clinical Trial S1207

Estrogen can cause the growth of breast cancer cells. In an effort to lower the amount of estrogen in the body and block the production of new estrogen cells, many patients with breast cancer are advised to use hormone therapy following chemotherapy.

The purpose of this trial is to determine whether hormone therapy alone is effective in blocking estrogen, or if it would be more effective when paired with the drug Everolimus. Everolimus is currently approved for the treatment of patients with advanced or metastatic kidney and breast cancer. It is considered investigational for patients with non-metastatic breast cancer.

Clinical Trial NSABP B55

This clinical trial is for women who have completed their treatment for breast cancer, and who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation and a high risk of recurrence. Participants who enroll in the trial will be given an experimental drug, called Olaparib, to determine its impact on invasive disease-free survival, as well as its overall safety and tolerability.

Clinical Trial NRG BR003

The purpose of this study is to compare the positive and negative effects of carboplatin as it is used in chemotherapy. Carboplatin is an FDA-approved drug that has been used for the treatment of breast cancer. However, it has not yet been proven useful in the cancer’s earliest stages.

Using carboplatin following chemotherapy can help prevent cancer from returning, but it can also lead to unwanted side effects. The study will allow researchers to better understand how using carboplatin in conjunction with other chemotherapy drugs affects breast cancer patients’ side effects and outcomes.

Clinical Trial ECOG 1Z11

Following chemotherapy, many women use the FDA-approved drug anastrozole as a method of hormone therapy to lower the amount of estrogen in the body and block the production of new estrogen cells. However, many women have reported side effects like muscle and joint pain after using anastrozole. The goal of this trial is to determine how to better predict which women may experience these symptoms, how the symptoms can be treated and how side effects like these ultimately impact quality of life for breast cancer patients.

Clinical Trial A011401

Previous studies have found that women who are overweight or obese when their breast cancer was diagnosed have a greater risk of breast cancer recurrence. This study seeks to determine whether or not losing weight may help breast cancer from returning and, if so, how much weight loss is necessary to prevent recurrence.

In addition to examining the efficacy of general weight loss, this study will also seek to determine whether weight loss programs should be a part of breast cancer treatment.

FROST Clinical Trial

Cryoablation, a technique that refers to freezing cancer cells with extreme cold, has been used for many years on liver, skin and cervical cancers, as well as benign breast tumors. However, it is a relatively new technique for the treatment of breast cancer.

The purpose of the aptly-named FROST clinical trial is to determine whether cryoablation alone may be more effective in the treatment of invasive, early stage breast cancer than more traditional methods, like surgical resection or a lumpectomy.

Clinical Trial A011502 (ABC Study)

There are conflicting studies about whether or not aspirin can reduce breast cancer recurrence, so the purpose of the ABC (Aspirin for Breast Cancer) study is to compare the positive and negative effects of aspirin use for patients who have had surgery or completed chemotherapy and/or radiation.

While aspirin has been approved by the FDA, it has not been approved for the purposes of lowering breast cancer risk, recurrence or improving the chances of survival following a breast cancer diagnosis.

Merck Clinical Trial (MK3475-355)

This is a study that will examine the use of an experimental drug, called pembrolizumab, in the treatment of locally recurrent inoperable or metastatic triple negative breast cancer.
Pembrolizumab has been approved for use in patients with melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer and head and neck squamous cell cancer, but it has not yet been approved for recurrent metastatic triple-negative breast cancer.

The study will compare the safety and efficacy of pembrolizumab in combination with chemotherapy to the safety and efficacy of chemotherapy alone.

Clinical Trial S1418

This study is for women with triple negative breast cancer who have undergone chemotherapy prior to their surgery for breast cancer, and who have residual cancer on their final pathology.

This study uses pembrolizumab similar to the Merck trial but is introduced at an early stage to determine the effects of pembrolizumab on progression free and overall survival and the medications safety and tolerability.

Patients who are enrolled in the S1418 trial will either be given pembrolizumab or placed under observation.

Clinical Trial NRGCC004

Long term consequences of the cancer experience can include unwanted changes in sexual health, and decreased sexual desire is a common survivorship issue among women who have been treated for breast or gynecological cancer.

This study will test whether a medication called bupropion, which has been approved for depression and smoking, can improve sexual desire among women who have undergone cancer treatment. Researchers suspect that bupropion may work by boosting sexual desire, energy or motivation without causing unpleasant side effects.

Learn more about LIMR’s breast clinical trials

To learn more or to determine if you might be a candidate for any of the trials listed here, visit the LIMR website or contact Turzo at 484.476.2649.