Cancer Center Opens Clinical Trial for Women with Breast Cancer

BENNINGTON — Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center is one of only 480 locations around the country taking part in a study of a new drug for treating breast cancer. The study, called a clinical trial, will help determine if adding a new drug, bevacizumab, to conventional chemotherapy affects the prognosis of women with a specific type of breast cancer.

“The new drug is specifically aimed at women with HER2-negative breast cancer,” explained Dr. Orion Howard, director of medical oncology at the cancer center. “There are several types breast cancer caused by hormone or growth factor imbalances. A HER2-negative tumor means the tumor was not caused by a problem with the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, a technical term for the gene that controls cell growth in the body.”

Howard added that this research is particularly useful because of the need for specific drugs for HER2-negative tumors. “The HER2 gene typically creates a more aggressive cancer, and provides an excellent target for therapy,” explained Howard. “HER2-negative cancers tend to be less aggressive, but they also don’t give us a good target.”

For women with early stage HER2-negative cancer, researchers are looking to see if the new combination helps keep cancer from coming back.

“Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women,” Howard added. “By offering this clinical trial, we are able to give women additional options for treating this disease.”

After surgery to remove the cancer, women participating in the study will receive either standard chemotherapy or standard chemotherapy plus bevacizumab, known by its trade name Avastin. The drug is actually an antibody designed to block the rapid growth of new blood vessels. It has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat other types of cancer.

The study is sponsored by the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, a clinical trials cooperative formed in 1958 by the National Cancer Institute. As a national study, women must meet specific criteria to be included. For more information about taking part in the study, contact Theresa Keefer at Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center 802-447-1836.

Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center is home to Vermont’s only breast care program, accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. It is part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, a community-based not-for-profit health system that includes Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, The VNA & Hospice of SVMC, the Centers for Living & Rehabilitation, and several medical practices. ‘

Media Contact: Kevin Robinson