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New therapies on the fast track

Tufia Haddad, M.D., describes the I-SPY2 study to patient Mary Kittelson. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

A leading-edge clinical trial that started at the University of Minnesota in September aims to improve breast cancer survival rates—and it will garner answers in a much shorter than usual timeframe.

Called I-SPY2, the study will compare the effectiveness of several potential new breast cancer medications at once and almost immediately evaluate whether they’re working.

A typical clinical trial examines one drug at a time and often involves five years of enrolling patients and collecting data—and then another five years for analysis and follow-up to determine whether that treatment was effective, says Masonic Cancer Center oncologist Tufia Haddad, M.D.

But this trial is designed to move much faster.

“The testing is going to be done right up front, in real time, in women with advanced but potentially curable breast cancer,” says Haddad, who directs the University’s part of the 17-site clinical trial. “We’ll be able to monitor the tumor response to treatment and determine drug effectiveness within six months.”

The study also involves genetic analyses of breast tumor tissue, which will help physician-researchers determine which drugs are most beneficial for different patient subgroups.

“Ultimately, the goal is to identify targets from the tissue—whether it’s genes, proteins, or patterns in the tumor—that predict whether or not this drug will work in this particular tumor for this particular woman,” Haddad says.

Masonic Cancer Center director Douglas Yee, M.D., leads the national committee in charge of selecting promising drugs for the collaborative study.

“We all hope that this trial will be faster, smarter, and better in bringing new discoveries to breast cancer treatment,” he says.

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