BRIGHT Run has approved funding for a research project that aims to study the impact of a specialized type of radiation in patients with metastatic breast cancer.
The project, headed by Dr. Elysia K. Donovan, a radiation oncologist at the Juravinski Cancer Centre aims to find out if using specialized radiation therapy in some patients with metastatic breast cancer can delay changing medical treatment to harsher drugs, thus maintaining a good quality of life.
Recent advances in drug therapies have resulted in delayed cancer progression and fewer side effects for patients with metastatic (stage IV) breast cancer.
These treatments include CDK4/6 inhibitors for patients with hormone-sensitive breast cancer, and targeted therapies in the case of HER2-positive breast cancer, and immunotherapy in triple-negative breast cancer.
CDK4/6 inhibitors (Ibrance is one example) are drugs designed to interrupt the growth of cancer cells and are often used in combination with hormone therapy in treating some metastatic breast cancers. Targeted therapies directed at HER2-positive cancer cells can slow or stop their growth. Immunotherapies may also activate the body’s immune system against triple-negative breast cancer cells.
When a patient’s cancer eventually progresses on these treatments, a change in drug treatment is typically required. The next lines of therapy may be less effective at treating the cancer and more toxic in their side effects, having a direct impact on quality of life. Chemotherapy, for example, has more side effects than the previously mentioned drug treatments.
The term oligoprogression (OP) refers to cancer growth in five or fewer areas of the body while on a drug treatment. Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) is a type of high-dose radiation delivered to a very focused area. This minimizes toxicity to surrounding normal tissues.
In this study, SBRT will be given to the oligometastatic tumour growths at the same time that the patient is taking their anti-cancer medicine.
The goal of the study is to see if this approach will delay the growth of metastatic spots farther away in the body, resulting in a delay in changing the anti-cancer medicine. Ideally, this study will provide preliminary data to develop a large trial across Canada.
Talk to your oncologist if you think you might qualify for this study.