Research Led by Komen Scholars is Major Step Forward in Personalized Treatment for Breast Cancer
DALLAS – June 5, 2012 – Leaders of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer research organization, hailed new research led by Komen Scholar Dr. Kimberly Blackwell as an important new step toward more effective personalized treatments for breast cancer.
“This experimental treatment and others are leading us to a new era in breast cancer care, where women with metastatic cancers will get the absolute right treatment for their disease, and a high quality of life,” said Komen President Elizabeth Thompson. “While we look for ways to prevent breast cancer, finding treatments for metastatic disease continues to be a major priority for Komen.”
Dr. Kimberly Blackwell, a Komen Scholar and professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center, reported on the new treatment, T-DM1, at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago Sunday. Blackwell is the lead investigator for this research, which was co-authored by fellow Komen Scholars Dr. Ian Krop of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Dr. Jose Baselga of Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School, among others, and funded by Roche/Genentech and partner Immunogen. Research was performed at hundreds of institutions worldwide.
The study of 1,000 patients with metastatic HER-2 positive breast cancer (which accounts for about 25 percent of breast cancer cases), showed that the T-DM1 treatment slowed progression of the disease, with fewer side effects.
T-DM1 binds the targeted drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) with an experimental chemotherapy drug, emtansine, to specifically target and deliver the chemotherapy to the cancerous cells while leaving other cells intact. Some media reports have described the combination as a “smart bomb” against breast cancer cells.
More such “smart bombs” are necessary, Thompson said. “Women deserve therapies that will work for their specific kind of cancer, without the debilitating side effects that many experience today,” she said.
Komen currently is funding $23 million in large-scale Promise Grants investigating personalized medicine as part of an active research portfolio of more than 500 grants totaling more than $300 million. Since 1982, Komen has become the largest non-profit funder of breast cancer research (outside of the federal government), with $740 million in granting.
Drs. Blackwell, Krop and Baselga are Komen Scholars, a group of leading researchers, clinicians and advocates that advises Komen about the direction of its research program and reviews applications for new research. Komen recently announced $58 million in new research grants for 2012.
Thompson said the drug’s manufacturer intends to seek FDA approval for the T-DM1 drug by the end of the year. Patients interested in participating in clinical trials about the drug should go to www.breastcancertrials.org and consult with their healthcare provider.