Researchers at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Breast Cancer Program continue to launch groundbreaking studies into one of the country’s most common cancers.

Among the research currently underway at USC Norris is a clinical trial led by Darcy Spicer, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and chief of the division of medical oncology at USC Norris, testing the efficacy of a new targeted treatment that aims to achieve the same results of traditional chemotherapy while resulting in lower side effects for patients.

Researchers are seeking patients to participate who have metastatic breast cancer and have had no more than two chemotherapy treatments.

The study provides patients with metronomic chemotherapy, an emerging new treatment option in cancer therapy, in which low doses of chemotherapeutic agents are given to patients at frequent intervals over longer periods of time. This targeted therapy can potentially improve the patients’ quality of life and allow for the prolonged administration of chemotherapy drugs.

Chemotherapy has traditionally been administered at the maximum tolerated dose — the highest possible dose that does not cause serious toxicity for the patient.

“One of the benefits of metronomic chemotherapy may be a lower toxicity and lower the incidence of side effects,” Spicer said.

The clinical trial, in Phase II, uses metronomic chemotherapy in combination with breast cancer drugs lapatinib and trastuzumab in patients with metastatic breast cancer who have been previously treated with trastuzumab. Patients will be given a four-drug treatment on a 21-day cycle.

About 256,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2017, according to the American Cancer Society.

Although breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women — behind lung cancer — death rates have been dropping since 1989. The drop is attributed to early cancer detection through screening, increased awareness and better treatments, according to the American Cancer Society. There are more than 2.8 million living breast cancer survivors in the United States.

Yet despite recent advances in therapy, metastatic breast cancer — in which cancer spreads to vital organs — remains an
incurable disease, with five-year survival of rate 23 percent.

To learn more about this clinical trial, visit: clinicaltrials.keckmedicine.org/clinicaltrials/287