New clinical trial for HER2 breast cancer

HER-2 is a subtype of breast cancer. It is characterised because the cancer cell expresses the HER-2 receptor – a protein, that promotes the growth of cancer cells. In about one of every five breast cancers, the cancer cells have extra copies of the gene that makes the HER-2 protein. A new clinical trial, called The Shamrock Trial is about to begin within the centre which explores how certain women respond to a new anti HER-2 drug, which may eliminate the need for chemotherapy amongst that cohort. 

The trial involves 80 patients from four centres.  It is an exciting trial because although we currently have drugs that target HER2, this new fourth generation drug is very efficient. It may mean that certain women do not need chemotherapy as part of their overall treatment plan. This current drug is not very toxic, hence the patient may not experience a lot of the negative side effects as before such as hair loss and nausea.

Patients on this trial will start off with chemotherapy and this new drug. They will be tested after one month and if it is felt that the overall effectiveness of the drug is good enough on its own, then the level of chemotherapy will be reduced if not stopped altogether.  Like the OncoType DX, one of the other exciting advancements in recent years, this new trial could be game-changing in de-escalating the need for chemotherapy.

Ongoing and additional clinical trials are key to transforming the landscape of this disease into a treatable illness that can be maintained long term. Speed of transforming scientific discovery in our labs into clinical trial and ultimately the development of new drug therapies is vital in our race for a cure. Thanks to the 100km in 30 Days challenge, created by Louth couple, Niall Carroll and his wife Cara McAdam, a breast cancer survivor, back at the beginning of the pandemic, we are making a real difference for thousands of Irish women and men who face a breast cancer diagnosis.

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