Category: Children's Health, Health Magazine

Title:Positive news for triple-negative breast cancer treatment

Farmer, pictured with daughter Sofie, took part in the clinical trial for a triple-negative breast cancer treatment. Photo: Joe Farmer
Farmer, pictured with daughter Sofie, took part in the clinical trial for a triple-negative breast cancer treatment. Photo: Joe Farmer

A clinical trial exploring a new treatment for breast cancer found that women with a hard-to-treat form of the disease lived longer without the disease coming back following treatment. The trial was conducted at sites around the world, including Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“This finding represents a significant step forward and changes how we treat women with this type of cancer,” says Claudine Isaacs, MD, professor of medicine and oncology and leader of the Clinical Breast Cancer Program at Georgetown Lombardi.

The results of the trial, reported online June 3 in the New England Journal of Medicine, included women with triple-negative breast cancer—an aggressive type that tests negative for three common features: estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and an excess of a protein called HER2. Women in the study also had inherited a mutation in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, genes known to increase the risk of cancers.

According to the American Cancer Society, triple-negative breast cancer accounts for about 10–15% of all breast cancers and tends to be more common in women younger than age 40, who are African-American, or who have a BRCA1 mutation. Cancers in which any of the three features are present can be targeted by existing therapies. Fewer treatment options exist for triple-negative breast cancer.

The drug studied is a pill called Lynparza made by AstraZeneca and Merck & Co. It was given to a group of women (about half of those in the study) after they received standard surgery and chemotherapy to treat their cancer. The other half of women in the study were given a placebo. In comparing the two groups, findings were so positive that the outcome of the study was reported earlier than planned—more women who received the active drug lived longer without the disease.

Brandi Durkac Farmer, 42, participated in the study. A Georgetown staff member, she was pregnant when she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2016.

“I lost the pregnancy. That was the hardest thing for me… to navigate two such enormous challenges at the same time,” Farmer says, acknowledging the desire to share her story to help other women going through the same experience.

After chemotherapy and surgery, she volunteered for the clinical trial, but still doesn’t know if she got Lynparza or the placebo. Farmer, now a new mom to 14-month-old Sofie, has no signs of cancer and hit her five-year mark being cancer free in August 2021.

Her motivation to participate in the clinical trial arose from a desire to contribute to the greater good of curing cancer. “I benefited from those who volunteered for clinical trials before me,” she says. “I wanted to pay that forward by participating in this trial and supporting clinical research.”

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