Breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide with over 2.26 million cases diagnosed every year.
Secondary or metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to other organs in the body such as the lung, liver, bones and brain. This form of breast cancer, particularly when it has spread to the brain, can be very difficult to treat as it can be aggressive. Patients with this type of cancer, in many cases, may just have months to live.
A new study by researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre (BRCC) has led to an important finding for the treatment of patients with breast cancer that has spread to the brain.
The RCSI study genetically tracked growth of cancer tumours from the first diagnosis of the breast cancer to the spread in the brain. The researchers found that almost half of the tumours had changes in the way they repair their DNA. The findings indicate that an existing type of cancer drug called a PARP inhibitor could stop the cancer cells from spreading in the brain by preventing them from repairing their DNA.
Published in Nature Communications, the findings of the study represent an important development towards the expansion of the limited treatment options available for patients with secondary breast cancer that has spread to the brain.
The research, led by Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre investigators Professor Leonie Young, Dr Nicola Cosgrove, Dr Damir Varešlija and Professor Arnold Hill, was carried out in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and University of Pittsburgh, USA.
The study was funded by Breast Cancer Ireland with support from Breast Cancer Now and Science Foundation Ireland.
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