Leading scientists and clinicians from Leeds have been awarded a grant worth around £200,000 by medical research charity Breast Cancer Campaign to test a new method using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that could predict chemotherapy benefit and ensure that patients receive the most appropriate treatment.
Breast cancer patients are sometimes given chemotherapy drugs before surgery to reduce the size of a tumour, which is known as 'neoadjuvant chemotherapy'. However, at present, it is difficult to know precisely who will benefit from this.
It can take many doses (cycles) of neoadjuvant chemotherapy to cause a noticeable change in tumour size, and in some cases the tumour does not shrink at all, meaning that patients experience the significant side-effects of chemotherapy with very little benefit. It is therefore essential that new ways are developed to find out at an earlier stage whether a breast tumour is responding to neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
Professor David Buckley, based in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, is leading a three-year project to test a new method of monitoring the effectiveness of chemotherapy as early as possible. His team have already developed a method to tell whether a tumour is responding to chemotherapy, using a conventional hospital MRI scan to measure blood flow to the tumour.
Breast Cancer Campaign is funding a clinical trial of this new technique, led by Professor Buckley, to see whether changes to a tumour's blood flow can be detected after just one cycle of neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
The trial will recruit 40 women receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer, who will have MRI scans before, during and after the course of chemotherapy. In addition, tumour tissue will be analysed both after one cycle of chemotherapy and once it has been removed by surgery, to see how successful the neoadjuvant chemotherapy has been at treating the tumour.
Katherine Woods, Senior Research Communications Manager at Breast Cancer Campaign, said:
"To ensure that breast cancer patients receive the most effective treatment possible, we need to identify whether neoadjuvant chemotherapy is working for them as soon as we can.
"Professor Buckley's research will help find better ways to monitor how effective chemotherapy before surgery actually is for each individual, ensuring that it can be directed to the people most likely to benefit and enabling those it is unlikely to help to be spared from the gruelling side-effects and to pursue more appropriate options."
Over 4,000 women in Yorkshire & The Humber are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, on average, and sadly almost 1,000 women in the region die of the disease each year1.