interviews

20.11.19

NHS arthritis drugs could prevent secondary breast cancer

A report, funded by Breast Cancer Now, and carried out by teams at the University of Manchester and the University of Sheffield has discovered that by using drugs such as anakinra, which is used to treat arthritis, they could also prevent the growth of secondary tumours on bones in mice.

When anakinra wasn’t used on mice with breast cancer, 42% of the mice developed secondary cancers. Just 14% developed a secondary tumour when anakinra was used. It is hoped that the drug can be used in conjunction with existing treatment to lower the rate further.

The drugs appear to block the effect of interleukin 1-beta (IL-1β), a protein released by bone marrow which appears to encourage secondary tumour growth.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with over 55,000 diagnoses every year. Almost all breast cancer deaths are attributable to metastatic breast cancer (breast cancer that has spread to another part of the body).

Secondary cancer in bones in the most common form of metastatic breast cancer, and although it is treatable it is currently incurable.

Researchers are hopeful that as the drugs are currently in use within the NHS, it won’t be long before they are in full clinical trials for the treatment of secondary breast cancer.

Lead author Dr Rachel Eyre, from The University of Manchester, said:

“We are very excited by our results in the lab showing that breast cancer in bone can be prevented using drugs that are already approved for other diseases. We hope it can soon be established whether these drugs can be used for breast cancer patients following successful testing in clinical trials.

“We will now look to see if similar processes are also involved in breast cancer growing in other organs, such as the liver and lungs. We hope that by continuing this work, we could in future identify those at high risk of their breast cancer spreading, and where possible use drugs already available to prevent this from happening.”

Photo: University of Manchester

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