A study suggests that the experimental medicine Efaproxyn (chemical name: efaproxiral) doesn't improve the benefits of radiation therapy to the brain to treat breast cancer that has spread there.
The results were presented at the 2008 American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) meeting.
Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread to other body organs, such as the bones, liver, or brain. Metastatic breast cancer can be the first diagnosis or it can be diagnosed after the cancer comes back (recurrence). Many women live for years with metastatic cancer that's controlled. Living with metastatic breast cancer is like living with a chronic disease. It can be in remission, it can be active, or it can be inactive. Living with metastatic breast cancer can mean trying one treatment after another, ideally with breaks in between treatments when you feel good. The goal of treatment is to help you feel as good as possible and live a longer life.
Radiation therapy to the brain is one way to shrink breast cancer that has spread there. Radiation therapy to the brain often is given with other treatments such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or targeted therapy.
Efaproxyn is a radiation sensitizer. When given with radiation therapy, Efaproxyn is expected to make the radiation more effective at killing cancer cells. Efaproxyn increases the amount of oxygen in cancer cells. Sometimes cancer cells don't have high amounts of oxygen. It's thought that giving cancer cells more oxygen will make them more susceptible to radiation.
In this study, 365 women were treated with radiation therapy to the brain for two or more areas of metastatic breast cancer. About half of the women got Efaproxyn and the rest didn't. The response to the radiation therapy was the same for both groups of women. The Efaproxyn didn't make a difference in how the cancer responded to the radiation therapy.
A previous study suggested that Efaproxyn improved the response to radiation therapy in people being treated for metastatic cancers, but another study did not show any benefit. So the researchers thought it needed more testing.
Improvements in treatments for advanced-stage breast cancer have not kept pace with improvements in treatments for early-stage breast cancer. Doctors continue to work very hard to find new and better ways to treat advanced-stage breast cancer, including metastatic breast cancer. It can be disappointing to find out that a promising treatment doesn't work. But these results add to our understanding of breast cancer and help focus research on other treatments.
Visit the Recurrent and Metastatic Breast Cancer section to learn more about metastatic breast cancer and its treatments.