Combining the new breast cancer drug palbociclib with paclitaxel (Taxol) shrank tumors in nearly half of patient with estrogen-receptor (ER) positive breast cancer, according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The results will be presented Saturday at the 2015 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (Abstract P6-13-08). A second study (Abstract P4-13-04), to be presented Friday provides new clues to how breast cancer develops resistance to the palbociclib, a common occurrence among many patients who take the drug.
"Results of the first study found that palbociclib and paclitaxel can be safely combined on an alternating dosing schedule," said Angela DeMichele, MD, MSCE, the Alan and Jill Miller Associate Professor in Breast Cancer Excellence in Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, and senior author on the study. "The high response rate we saw suggests this combination may hold benefits for patients over paclitaxel alone. Based on these results, a larger clinical trial to determine the benefits is warranted."
A Complementary Therapy
Palbociclib targets the rapid division of tumor cells by inhibiting the activity of the enzymes CDK4 and CDK6, which help drive cell division and are upregulated in most cancers. The researchers suspected that palbociclib's unique mechanism of action may make it a good partner for other breast cancer drugs such as paclitaxel, which kills dividing cells at a certain point in the cell division process (also known as the "cell cycle"). Palbociclib effectively halts the cell cycle before that point, and thus in principle can synchronize cancer cells in a way that makes them more vulnerable to a closely following dose of paclitaxel.