Younger women are less likely than older women to get breast cancer, but when they do, it’s more likely to be an aggressive cancer that spreads quickly and is harder to treat. Since younger women do not regularly get mammograms or other breast cancer screening procedures, it’s also more likely to be diagnosed late, which often means a worse prognosis. But a new drug is now offering new hope to young women with incurable stage IV breast cancer who just want more time with their families.
Ribociclib, also known by the brand name KISQALI, is a targeted therapy that inhibits cyclin D1/CDK4 and CDK6. The precision treatment is in trials currently for breast cancer patients and is administered in combination with conventional hormone therapy in an attempt to keep cancer cells from growing and dividing. So far, studies are showing that pre-menopausal patients taking the drug have a 50-percent better chance of surviving for three years compared to those on other treatment plans.
In the international Monaleesa-7 trial, researchers studied 672 women under the age of 59 who had advanced hormone receptor-positive but HER2-negative breast cancer. They found that 70 percent of women who received the Ribociclib combination treatment survived for at least 42 months, compared with just 46 percent of the women who received hormone therapy and a placebo. This means that deaths among the treated group were decreased by 29 percent during the course of the trial.
“The use of ribociclib as a frontline therapy significantly prolonged overall survival, which is good news for women with this terrible disease,” says Dr. Sara Hurvitz of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Centre.
The young women who took a once-daily oral ribociclib dose didn’t see a progressive change in their cancers for a median of 23.8 months, compared to just 13 months for women on a placebo. So the use of the drug could also mean prolonged quality of life rather than just prolonged life span overall.
“This is indescribably good news for patients and their families,” said Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of the charity Breast Cancer Now. “It is now absolutely fantastic to see the very first evidence that ribociclib can give thousands of younger women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer more time to live. We cannot put into words what it will mean for so many women to be able to spend precious extra time with their families.”
We can’t wait to see how ribociclib continues to perform through the remainder of its trials and how it changes lives once it enters the market. So many young women will be blessed with more time to live and love life with the help of this drug!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?