Rs 120-a-month therapy gives breast cancer patients hope

Rs 120-a-month therapy gives breast cancer patients hope

04-03-2016   |   Posted By: Admin   |   718 View(s)

MUMBAI: A combination of anti-diabetic and chemotherapy drugs, costing less than Rs 120 a month, has improved survival rates by a significant 40% in a section of breast cancer patients. A pilot study by Tata Memorial Hospital has brought hope to patients with triple-negative breast cancer, who had no affordable options to prevent relapse so far. Around 33% of breast cancers at the Tata Hospital are triple-negative.

This form of cancer affects younger women more and often can be difficult to treat. The findings, based on 64 patients treated at a Chiplun-based outreach hospital attached to Tata, showed that the five-year survival rate of 37 women who took the maintenance doses rose to 90% as compared to 50% in those who did not take the drugs. The patients were given two pills of anti-cancer and one anti-diabetic drug every day for one-and-a-half years.
“The findings are remarkable and make a crucial case for metronomic therapy,” said Dr Shripad Banavali, professor and head of the department of medical oncology, Tata Hospital. Metronomic therapy refers to a new modality of drug administration with economical, low-dose medicines over a prolonged period. “The maintenance doses given under the metronomic model attacked cancer in three ways. We weakened the tumour by reducing the blood supply, modulated the body’s microenvironment and immunity. The idea was not just to go after the tumour but launch an all-around attack,” he said. The only non-cancer drug metformin, which is primarily given to diabetics, was used as a biological response modifier.

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Banavali added that the metronomic approach was already in use for years as a palliative option, where conventional ways of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy had failed. “It is a boon for countries like India where drug discovery is a huge challenge. It allows us to reposition the drugs which are already in use,” he added.

 Globally, the only option available to prevent a relapse in triple-negative cancers is the relatively new approach called immunotherapy that boosts the body’s natural fighting mechanism. “That, however, comes at a cost of $20,000 a month as compared to our option of less than $2. Most developing nations cannot afford to use them,” said Banavali.
 A handful of hospitals in the city has also started following the metronomic way for maintenance of triple-negative breast cancer patients.
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