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Findings, presented by researchers at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, show a new form of the drug that drastically improves survival rates of younger women with the most common type of breast cancer.

Citing the results of an international clinical trial, they showed that the addition of cell-cycle inhibitor Ribociclib increased survival rates to 70 percent after three and a half years. With the drug, the mortality rate was 29 percent less than when patients, all under 59 and pre-menopausal, were randomly assigned a placebo.

The study focused on a form of breast cancer fuelled by the hormone oestrogen which accounts for two-thirds of all cases among younger women. The cancer is generally treated by therapies that block the hormone’s production.

The drug works by inhibiting the activity of cancer-cell promoting enzymes and is less toxic compared to traditional chemotherapy since it more selectively targets cancerous cells by blocking their ability to multiply.

Advanced form of breast cancer (metastatic breast cancer) is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women aged 20 to 59 in the US. Although the advanced form is less common among younger women, a previous study says its prevalence grew by two percent annually in the US between 1978 and 2008 for women aged 20 to 39.

In the new trial, more than 670 women with advanced (stage four) with no prior hormone-blocking therapy were included. Most patients get to the advanced stages as they are diagnosed at a later stage due to lack of better screening modalities for young women. Additionally, patients who develop breast cancer early tend to have more complex cases.

The new drug is administered daily for 21 days followed by seven days off to allow the body time to recover, since two-thirds of patients have a moderate to severe drop in white cell count. However, the metastatic breast cancer is incurable and the majority of the women using the drug will need some form of therapy for the rest of their lives.

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