New breast cancer treatment could help thousands of women – as it 'slashes risk of disease returning by a quarter'

A NEW breast cancer treatment could help thousands of women because it slashes the risk of the disease returning by a quarter, a new study has revealed.

Experts have now claimed that the breakthrough is “one of the most promising in the last 20 years”.

The study was conducted over 38 countries and 5,637 patients were selected to participate.

Patients with hormone receptor positive (HR+) early stage breast cancer at a high risk of recurrence were recruited.

The phase three MonarchE study was led by the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

Experts tested if patients taking the CDK 4/6 inhibitor abemaciclib along with hormone therapy following standard care treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery and/or radiotherapy would reduce the risk of recurrence compared with the standard hormone treatment alone.

The study was conducted over two years and the experts found that there was a 25 per cent reduction in recurrence of cancer when abemaciclib was added to the standard hormone therapy compared with hormone therapy alone.

Just 11.3 per cent of patients who participated suffered a relapse compared with 7.8 per cent in the abemaciclib group.

The Royal Marsden said that around 70 per cent of breast cancer patients have hormone receptor positive tumours, and a proportion of those have a higher risk of relapse in the first two years.

The report stated: "Patients with disease that has spread to lymph nodes, a large tumour size at the time of diagnosis, or an increased cellular proliferation (determined by high grade of the tumour, or number of dividing cells) were considered to be at 'high risk' of recurrence and recruited to the study".

One patient who participated in the study said she “did not feel much hope” when she was referred last year after finding out her cancer had spread to 23 lymph nodes.

Sarah Ryder, 57, from Dorset said the trial has helped her “believe in a future again”.

"I can see my daughter grow up, go off to university next year and maybe have a family of her own one day”, she added.


Breast cancer is the name given to any cancers that have first developed in the breast tissue – there are many different types.

Nearly 1,000 people die from breast cancer every month in the UK, with the disease killing around 11,500 women and 80 men each year.

However, thanks to advances in medical research and early prevention, more people are surviving breast cancer than ever before.

While it is more common in older women, it does affect the younger generation and men too – with around 20 per cent of cases occurring in females under 50 and 350 male cases diagnosed in the UK annually.

What are the symptoms?

  • Change in breast size or shape
  • Redness or rash
  • Nipple discharge
  • Swelling in the armpit or around the collar bone
  • Change in skin texture
  • An inverted nipple
  • Constant pain

The results of the monarchE study were presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology Virtual Congress last night and will be published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Professor Stephen Johnston, consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden and professor of breast cancer medicine at the Institute of Cancer Research, said: "This research could potentially save many lives in the future."

He said: "The monarchE research has given us confidence that we will soon be able to offer our high risk HR+ patients a greater chance of keeping them cancer-free.

"While there have been many advances in other early breast cancer subtypes such as HER2 positive disease, there has been no significant advancements for the large group of patients who have hormone receptor positive breast cancer since the late 1990s when aromatase inhibitors were introduced”.

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