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NHS offers first drug targeting advanced breast cancers

NHS offers first drug targeting advanced breast cancers

Navin Khosla NowPatientGreen tick
Updated on 2 Feb 2024

Breast cancer is a devastating disease that affects millions of people worldwide. In recent years, advancements in medical research have led to the development of targeted treatments that specifically address the underlying genetic mutations responsible for certain types of breast cancer. One such breakthrough is talazoparib, a PARP inhibitor drug that has shown promising results in clinical trials treating advanced breast cancers caused by BRCA mutations.

The importance of targeted treatments

Traditionally, chemotherapy has been the go-to treatment option for advanced breast cancers that cannot be cured. While chemotherapy can be effective, it often comes with debilitating side effects and requires frequent hospital visits. New drugs like talazoparib offer a focused approach, specifically targeting the genetic mutations that drive the growth of cancer cells. This not only improves the effectiveness of the treatment but also minimises the high risk of side effects and allows patients to lead a more normal life.

The role of BRCA genes in breast cancer

Approximately 1 in 50 breast cancers are linked to mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These genes, often referred to as the “Jolie genes” after actress Angelina Jolie, can run in families and significantly increase the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Cancer researchers have made significant strides in understanding the role of BRCA genes in cancer development since their discovery in the 1990s. This knowledge has paved the way for the development of targeted treatments like talazoparib.

Talazoparib: A breakthrough in advanced breast cancer treatment

Talazoparib, also known by its brand name Talzenna, is set to become the first targeted treatment for advanced breast cancers caused by BRCA gene mutations in the NHS. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recently recommended the use of talazoparib for approximately 300 patients in England. This groundbreaking decision was made possible by a discount offered by Pfizer, the company that manufactures talazoparib, addressing initial cost concerns.

The efficacy of talazoparib

The recommendation by NICE was based on the results of the EMBRACA trial, which compared talazoparib to alternative therapies selected by clinicians in different countries. While talazoparib did not demonstrate improved overall survival rates, it significantly delayed the growth of trial participants’ cancers and had a positive impact on their health for a longer duration compared to other treatments. Doctors and patients alike believe that talazoparib can help individuals live as normal a life as possible for an extended period.

Treatment options for HER2 negative breast cancers

Talazoparib is specifically recommended for advanced breast cancers that lack receptors for a protein called HER2. HER2 negative breast cancers, including triple-negative breast cancers, have limited treatment options available. These cancers have reached a stage where they cannot be cured, and the primary objective of treatment is to extend patients’ lives while maintaining a good quality of life. In most cases, HER2 negative breast cancer patients undergo chemotherapy administered intravenously. However, talazoparib offers a more convenient treatment option in the form of a daily oral pill, allowing patients to receive treatment from the comfort of their homes.

A new era for advanced breast cancer treatment

The approval of talazoparib by NICE marks a significant milestone in the treatment of advanced breast cancers. Previously, targeted treatments like olaparib, another PARP inhibitor drug, were only available for early-stage breast cancers. Now, individuals with more advanced disease can also benefit from these breakthrough therapies. The advancements in targeted treatments not only offer hope for improved outcomes but also provide patients with a greater sense of control over their treatment journey.

NICE recommendations and their Impact

NICE decisions primarily apply to NHS England, but they often influence healthcare practices in Wales and Northern Ireland as well. Scotland, however, follows a different process for determining which drugs are eligible for NHS use. The approval of talazoparib by NICE ensures that eligible patients in England can access this targeted treatment, potentially transforming their lives and offering a new ray of hope for those affected by advanced breast cancers.


This new treatment represents a significant breakthrough in the treatment of advanced breast cancers caused by BRCA gene mutations. As the NHS’s first targeted drug treatment for this specific type of breast cancer, talazoparib offers new hope and improved quality of life for patients. The approval of talazoparib by NICE demonstrates the increasing importance of targeted treatments in the fight against breast cancer and signifies a new era in personalised medicine. With advancements in cancer drugs like talazoparib, we move closer to a future where each patient receives tailored treatments that address the unique genetic drivers of their cancer, ultimately improving outcomes and providing a brighter future for those affected by this disease.


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NowPatient has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that all material is factually accurate, complete, and current. However, the knowledge and experience of a qualified healthcare professional should always be sought after instead of using the information in this page. Before taking any drug, you should always speak to your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider.

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