Tata Memorial Centre study claims carboplatin raises survival rate for breast cancer

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, December 12: In a breakthrough study, which may bring a major relief to patients, a commonly available and inexpensive drug, carboplatin, has been found to increase cure rate and survival in triple-negative breast cancer, which is an aggressive type.

Over 2.2 million women in the world suffer from breast cancer annually. A study by the Tata Memorial Centre has found that carboplatin increased the cure rate and survival of a very aggressive type of breast cancer, called triple-negative breast cancer, especially among young women. There was no conclusive evidence earlier that this drug should be routinely used as part of the treatment.

Dr Sudeep Gupta, Professor of Medical Oncology at Tata Memorial Centre, presented, as a podium presentation, the results of the landmark ‘TMC Study – Platinum in TNBC’ at the ongoing San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, which is the largest and most important breast cancer conference in the world. Dr Rajendra A Badwe, Director TMC, is the Principal Investigator of this study, which was conducted by the Breast Cancer Working Group of Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai.

“The study was a randomized controlled trial which enrolled women with stage II-III triple negative breast cancer from 2010 to 2020 who were divided into two groups, both of whom received chemotherapy to downstage the disease prior to surgery. Women in the standard treatment group received standard chemotherapy comprised of once per week paclitaxel for eight weeks followed by doxorubicin plus cyclophosphamide every three weeks for four cycles,” said the Ministry of Science and technology in an official statement.

The report of the study further stated that in the platinum group, women received the same chemotherapy with the addition of injection carboplatin once per week for eight weeks, given with paclitaxel. Women in both groups underwent surgery after the last cycle of chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy. They were then followed up once every six months.

“In the whole study population cure rate (five-year disease-free survival) increased by 6.6 per cent from 64.1 per cent in the standard arm to 70.7 per cent in the platinum arm and the overall survival increased by 7.6 per cent from 66.8 per cent in the standard arm to 74.4 per cent in the platinum arm, which was statistically significant,” Dr Badwe explained. Also, when the results were analyzed by age, the benefit of weekly carboplatin was almost exclusively confined to women younger than 50 years who had a large 12.5 per cent increase in cure rate (five-year DFS 61.7 per cent to 74.2 per cent) and an 11.2 per cent gain in overall survival (five-year overall survival 65.9 per cent to 77.1 per cent).

“Platinum-based chemotherapy wiped the tumor clean as assessed by pathologists in the operated breast specimen (pathological complete response) in 61 per cent of younger (</=50 years) patients compared with 41 per cent by standard chemotherapy. Carboplatin-based chemotherapy was well tolerated without high rate of toxicity,” added the study.

The results were hailed by oncologists worldwide as immediately practice defining, said the Ministry, adding that “a commonly available and inexpensive treatment like carboplatin will now be routinely offered as part of pre-operative chemotherapy regimen to women with TNBC which is the most aggressive type of breast cancer”. Given that TNBC constitutes about 30 per cent of breast cancer in India and about 45 per cent of breast cancer in women younger than 50 years, the implications of this result are very important.

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