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Research: Two drugs before surgery help women with triple-negative breast cancer

Care New England

A breast cancer specialist and clinical researcher at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island presented research yesterday at the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium showing that adding either the chemotherapy drug carboplatin or the blood vessel-targeting drug bevacizumab to the standard treatment of chemotherapy before surgery helped women who have the basal-like subtype of triple-negative breast cancer.

"We found that adding either carboplatin or bevacizumab to standard preoperative chemotherapy increased pathologic complete response rates for women with basal-like cancers - that is, it increased the proportion of women who had no residual cancer detected at surgery. At the same time, we found that while carboplatin had a similar effect in the smaller group of triple-negative patients with nonbasal-like cancers, adding bevacizumab actually decreased response rates for women with nonbasal-like cancers," says William M. Sikov, MD, associate chief of clinical research with the Program in Women's Oncology at Women & Infants and associate professor of medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Last year, Sikov and colleagues reported in a randomized, phase II clinical trial called CALGB/Alliance 40603 that adding either carboplatin or bevacizumab to standard preoperative chemotherapy increased pathologic complete response rates in 443 women with operable stage II or III triple-negative breast cancer. These latest results are based on analysis of tissue samples obtained before patients started treatment, correlated with findings at surgery after treatment. Pretreatment tumor samples from 360 of the patients showed that 314 were basal-like and 46 nonbasal-like.

"We have also looked at expression of variety of gene signatures in the pretreatment tissue samples to determine if they benefit from the addition of bevacizumab or carboplatin" Sikov says. "We found that gene signatures characteristic of high proliferation rates and low estrogen-receptor signaling, which are both considered characteristics of more aggressive disease, are associated with higher rates of response rates overall and increased benefit from adding bevacizumab."


Other studies using tissue and blood samples obtained from the patients treated on this study - funded by the National Cancer Institute, Roche-Genentech, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation - are ongoing.

Sikov sees patients at the Program in Women's Oncology Breast Health Center offices in Providence. For an appointment, call (401) 453-7520.

About Women & Infants Hospital

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation's leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns. A major teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women's medicine, Women & Infants is the 11th largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country with approximately 8,400 deliveries per year. A U.S.News 2014-15 Best Children's Hospital in Neonatology, in 2009 Women & Infants opened the country's largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.

Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. It is home to the nation's only mother-baby perinatal psychiatric partial hospital, as well as the nation's only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.

Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Center of Excellence the American College of Radiography; a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology; a Center for In Vitro Maturation Excellence by SAGE In Vitro Fertilization; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute's Gynecologic Oncology Group and the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network.

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