Scientists have launched a new trial that could offer hope to those with incurable breast cancer.

They are studying whether an existing drug, talazoparib, also known by the brandname Talzenna, may offer a new treatment to people with incurable breast cancer that has spread to the brain.

Secondary breast cancer, also known as metastatic breast cancer, occurs when the cancer has spread from the breast to other parts of the body, where it becomes incurable. Last month, it claimed the life of Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding.

The new trial, funded by the charity Breast Cancer Now, will see researchers assess whether talazoparib could help those with terminal breast cancer. The drug is a PARP inhibitor, which works by preventing cancer cells from repairing, forcing them to die.

Experts from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin will use tumours and breast cancer cells donated by patients to see in the lab whether talazoparib is effective in treating secondary breast cancer in the brain. Further tests will examine the drug in mice, as well as models that mimic the brain’s protective system.

“Our previous research has shown that, in many cases, secondary breast cancer tumours in the brain have changes in the way they repair their DNA and we believe this could make them vulnerable to PARP inhibitor drugs like talazoparib,” said Prof Leonie Young, one of the co-leads of the research team.

Natalie Woodford, 57, from Surrey, who was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2017, welcomed the launch of the research.

“It’s really encouraging to learn about the new secondary breast cancer research happening,” she said. “I hope that this study will be a success and lead to new treatments for women like me in the future.”

Dr Simon Vincent, director of research, support and influencing at Breast Cancer Now, added: “An estimated 35,000 people in the UK are living with incurable secondary breast cancer, and the fear and uncertainty around when this devastating disease will cut their lives short.

“We desperately need to discover new ways to treat this incurable disease, including for those whose breast cancer has spread to the brain and who have very limited treatment options.”

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