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New initiatives in the treatment of breast cancer

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Better targeted therapies will reduce the burden of treatment, while improving the outcomes

With the 5-year survival for women diagnosed with breast cancer at 90%, the thrust of new initiatives is to discover whether that outcome can be either improved or achieved with less or better targeted therapy. Breast cancer was one of the first tumours to be successfully treated with a targeted therapy: trastuzumab improved outcomes for women with HER2-positive breast cancer, initially when treating metastatic disease, and then in the adjuvant therapy setting.1

New targets, new treatments

Among the new agents that target HER2-positive breast cancer are lapatanib, pertuzumab and trastuzumab emtansine (TDM-1), which can be used alone or combined with other agents to treat metastatic breast cancer.1 Newer targets for therapeutic agents include poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), an enzyme involved in DNA repair. Therapy with PARP inhibitors such as olaparib are emerging treatments for patients with mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.1

As many as 40% of women with breast cancer will become resistant to currently available treatments, and alternative agents are needed. The cyclin-dependent kinases, particularly CDK4 and CDK6, are important for cell cycle phase progression, and inhibitors such as…