Scientists have embarked on a research project to test whether an existing drug can 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.
During the study, funded by the charity Breast Cancer Now, researchers will assess whether the drug talazoparib, also known as Talzenna, can help kill the cancer cells.
Talazoparib is a type of drug called 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, Ireland, 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 and and models which 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," Professor Leonie Young, one of the co-leads of the research team, said.
Dr Simon Vincent, director of research, support and influencing at Breast Cancer Now, said: "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."