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Highlights of the year, 2015

We've picked out ten of our most exciting discoveries from the past year


Trial finds breast cancer drug delays disease progression

clinical trial

Research by ICR scientists found that a new breast cancer drug could delay the onset of advanced breast cancer in conjunction with standard treatments. 

A phase III clinical trial led by Dr Nicholas Turner at the ICR and The Royal Marsden found that novel cancer drug palbociclib significantly delays progression of advanced breast cancer when used with hormone therapy.

In the trial, palbociclib was given in combination with fulvestrant – a standard hormone therapy – in one group of women, while fulvestrant and placebo were given to the other group. It took an average 9.2 months for women treated with palbociclib to progress, compared with an average of 3.8 months in the placebo group – a gain of almost an extra five months.

Palbociclib is a ‘first in class’ drug because of its unique mechanism of action. It blocks two proteins that help cancer cells divide, CDK4 and CDK6. By selectively targeting cancer cells, the drug causes far fewer side-effects than traditional chemotherapy.

Palbocicib was found to be well tolerated, with only 2.6 per cent of patients on palbociclib experiencing side-effects that led them to stop taking the drug. The trial was stopped earlier than planned, on the advice on an independent monitoring committee, because of the positive results.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted in women with hormone-receptor positive, HER-2 negative breast cancer – a type that accounts for 75 per cent of cases. All women on the trial, which was run at 144 international research centres in 17 countries. had seen their disease relapse or progress after first receiving hormone therapy.

Hormone treatment is the first step for many women with this type of cancer, but the disease will often eventually progress or relapse – meaning that patients will need to be treated with chemotherapy

By combining a targeted therapy with a standard hormone drug, the trial aimed to identify an effective strategy to delay the need for women to start chemotherapy.

 The trial was funded by Pfizer.


Turner et al. Palbociclib in Hormone-Receptor–Positive Advanced Breast Cancer, New England Journal of Medicine (2015); 373 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa150527


More highlights from 2015

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