Breton women – and the few Bretons – suffering from breast cancer have, in the region, around twenty centers, public or private, for treatment. Among the most at the forefront of innovation in treatments is the Eugène-Marquis center in Rennes. “There are several open trials to offer patients the opportunity to see if the treatments currently being developed are more effective than the current ones,” indicates Dr. Thibault de La Motte Rouge, oncologist. For a long time, chemotherapy was the number one option. Now, more sophisticated treatments are offered, such as these antibodies to which chemotherapy molecules are attached in order to specifically target tumor cells.
At the Eugène-Marquis center, a clinical trial is being carried out combining a drug from the Swiss laboratory Novartis and hormonal therapy, given before the operation, the aim of which is to avoid practicing chemotherapy afterwards, for women suffering from cancer of the localized breast, hormone dependent.
Eugène-Marquis selected for a major research project
Dr Thibault de La Motte Rouge was also selected, in July, by the Hospital Clinical Research Program (PHRC) to set up a research project with a budget of “several hundred thousand euros”. The objective is to be able to identify patients who are indeed cured of breast cancer with metastases, and thus to stop their treatment, which is heavy, costly and given for life, while maintaining “very thorough monitoring” . “Blood tests with genomic analysis should make it possible to know if there are no more tumor cells and, if not, to detect them very early in order to resume treatment,” explains Dr. Thibault de La Motte Rouge. The trial, carried out nationally, is open to around a hundred patients and should start next year.
A genomics platform must also be effective at the beginning of 2024, at the Eugène-Marquis laboratory, in order to analyze the genetic characteristics of patients’ tumors, via a blood test or tumor samples, and, thus, to offer targeted treatments.
“There is no loss of luck”
Another large Breton center for the treatment of breast cancer, the Brest University Hospital is also increasing clinical trials of promising molecules or therapeutic strategies: “15 are currently open for recruitment, around fifty are currently being analyzed but closed to new inclusions, others are awaiting opening,” informs Dr Laura Deiana, medical oncologist at the Morvan site. Here too, it is a question of “covering all breast cancers so that we have the possibility of offering the most targeted and personalized treatment possible in order to gain overall survival and quality of life”, continues the doctor. She says she manages to convince “99%” of her patients, eligible for a trial, to participate. “This gives them hope and allows them to have access to innovative therapies, without loss of opportunity. »
Trials concerning the very promising immunotherapy are also offered in the region, in Rennes and Brest, in particular. It acts on a patient’s immune system to help them fight their cancer. Unfortunately, it seems to work less well on the breast: “It has not shown significant effectiveness but we do not really know why. We may not be using the right targets,” suggests Dr. Thibault de La Motte Rouge. “We still need to do studies to better target the population that could benefit from it,” adds Dr Laura Deiana.
Patients “don’t need to go to other areas”
But it is not necessary to live in Brest or Rennes to benefit from advances against breast cancer. Other Breton centers, in Plérin (22), Saint-Malo (35), etc., are also engaged in clinical research. Followed in smaller establishments, patients can also benefit from it thanks to the Regional Cancer Center and the Arpego network, in particular. “Since 2017, Arpego has brought together all the centers in the Greater West and a meeting takes place once a week. The goal is to take a tour of open or upcoming trials, to determine those which are the most interesting for patients, based on their profile,” explains Professor Jean-Philippe Metges, co-director of the Regional Cancer Center.
This good understanding between Breton centers does not exist in all regions of France, according to Dr Thibault de La Motte Rouge. “Even if there may be a little competition between us, we do everything to offer the best innovations to patients,” he slips. And to conclude, on the subject of Breton performance in the treatment of breast cancer: “We are perhaps not at the same level as certain large centers in the Paris region or Lyon but we are not badly positioned given the small size of our region. The offer that we offer to patients is quite broad and means that they do not need to go to other regions to benefit from therapeutic innovation.”