New phase of breast cancer drug trial provides fresh hope for patients with incurable disease

Millions of patients with incurable breast cancer could benefit from new Welsh-led research.

A clinical trial by Cardiff University, Velindre University NHS Trust and AstraZeneca, found a combination of drugs could help prolong the lives of patients with incurable disease.

The findings were presented at the world’s biggest cancer conference in Chicago last weekend and published simultaneously in the Lancet Oncology journal.

The latest research builds on a 2019 trial of capivasertib , a breast cancer drug developed by AstraZeneca. Capivasertib blocks the activity of the protein AKT which contributes to resistance to hormone therapy, one of the main forms of treatment for patients diagnosed with incurable disease.

When the researchers combined capivasertib with hormonal treatment fulvestrant, it doubled the amount of time patients had their cancer under control (from five months to 10).

In the latest phase of the FAKTION trial, patients who had a mutation in their cancer which activated the AKT protein (identified in around half of patients on the trial) lived for around 39 months when given this combination, compared to 20 months when given the hormone plus a placebo.

"These new data are very exciting. Not only have we shown that capivasertib has the potential to give patients a very significant extension in their lifespan, but we may also be able to select out those patients who are most likely to benefit from the treatment by carrying out genetic tests on their cancer tissue," said Professor Rob Jones who co-led the trial, an expert in medical oncology at Cardiff University and assistant medical director for research at Velindre.

"We are now very keen to see if this is confirmed in a larger phase three trial which has already completed recruitment."

The research is a 10-year partnership between Cardiff University, Velindre University NHS Trust and AstraZeneca. The University’s Centre for Trials Research (CTR) coordinated the trial and its participating centres, involving approximately 150 patients across 19 hospitals in the UK. The CTR is core funded by Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales and Cancer Research UK.

The latest findings were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago on 4 June.

The latest from Cardiff University.