Mumbai : Tata Memorial Hospital has initiated a pilot study to provide cheaper drugs for patients suffering from triple negative breast cancer.
The hospital is currently studying the effects of a combination of anti-diabetic and chemotherapy drugs, costing less than Rs 120 a month.
The initial observations made under the study indicate an improved survival rate of 40% in a section of breast cancer patients. Triple negative breast cancer is mostly found in young women, and is difficult to treat. At the Tata Memorial Hospital there are 33% of such cases.
The initial study conducted at the hospital involved 64 patients at Chiplun-based outreach hospital attached to Tata, who were treated using the drug combination. The results found that five-year survival rate of 37 women who took the doses rose to 90%, who took two pills of anti-cancer and one anti-diabetic drug every day for one-and-a-half years. Patients who didn’t take the drugs have a 50% chance of survival in comparison to the patients in the study.
However, Tata doctors have implied that a more structure use of this therapy can be achieved with a randomized clinical trial. The Parel hospital is reported to be using the same therapy for head and neck cancer patients.
Commenting on the need of an affordable drug Dr Shripad Banavali, professor and head of department of medical oncology of the Tata Hospital implied that there is only one option to prevent a relapse of this form of cancer which is immunotherapy. While this treatment helps in boosting the natural fighting abilities of a human body, it is a very costly option. It is at a $20,000 a month as compared to our option of less than $2.
As reported by TOI, “The findings are remarkable and make a crucial case for metronomic therapy,” said Dr Shripad Banavali. 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 the 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-round attack ” Banavali said. The only non-cancer drug metformin, which is primarily given to diabetics, was used as a biological response modifier. 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. The regime was continued for one-and-a-half years in women randing from 25 to 75 years of age.