THE results of a new breast cancer treatment have demonstrated that a possible cure for the dreaded disease may soon be found. The preliminary findings, according to scientists, show that a new treatment for a particularly aggressive form of the disease can make tumours “disappear” in 11 days.
Announcing their results at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Amsterdam recently, the researchers said they had never seen breast cancer respond so quickly to treatment.
The doctors involved in what was termed “the mindboggling breakthrough” in the fight against the disease deployed a combination of two existing breast cancer drugs, Tyverb and Herceptin, in the trial and found out that tumours were completely cleared in 11 per cent of patients with HER 2-positive breast cancer and were reduced to a “minimal” size in a further 17 per cent. The results also show that nearly 90 per cent of the trial patients saw a reduction in the number of cancer cells.
The results further reveal that women with this type of cancer may not need to undergo weeks of chemotherapy if they are given the drugs straight after diagnosis and before surgery.
Despite the optimism of the possibility of finding a cure for breast cancer, Nigel Bundred, a professor of surgical oncology at Manchester University, who presented the study at the Amsterdam conference, cautioned that they would still need to carry out further trials to confirm the results.
However, he assured that “we are pretty certain that we are not only getting tumour disappearance—we are getting an immune response as well. These results are so staggering that I suspect we will have to run another trial to prove that they are generalisable.”
Breast cancer, according to medical experts, is a malignant tumour that starts in the cells of the breast. A malignant tumour is a group of cancer cells that can grow into surrounding tissues or spread to distant areas of the body. The disease occurs mostly in women but men can get it as well. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women.
Current data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that there are about 14 million new cancer cases worldwide and 8.2 million deaths from cancer in 2014, of which half (aged 30 to 69 years) died prematurely. About 70 per cent of these deaths occurred in developing nations like Nigeria. World Cancer Research said that breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, with nearly 1.7 million cases diagnosed in 2012. Breast cancer is the commonest form of cancer in Nigeria.
We commend those behind this significant scientific breakthrough in breast cancer treatment for a work well done and urge them to conduct more trials to make the treatment outcome generalisable.
No doubt, the new therapy offers fresh hope for breast cancer patients all over the world. With more diligence, this research will hopefully lead to the discovery of cures for other types of cancers.
The outcome of this research should be widely circulated and more trials conducted in other countries. While the new breast cancer treatment is laudable, we urge the concerned scientists to ensure that it has no adverse side effects on the patients.
We call on our medical authorities to find avenues to collaborate with the scientists for local trials of the cancer drugs in the country. We say this considering the fact that Nigeria is one the countries with the highest number of breast cancer patients in the world.
Beyond this, we urge Nigerian women to go for routine breast cancer checks since early detection and quality treatment offer the best bet for overcoming the disease. Government should intensify efforts in establishing cancer screening centres and equip our hospitals with cancer treatment machines and drugs to give our cancer patients a better chance of a cure.