Study to investigate screening for secondary cancer spread to the brain

Edinburgh charity Make 2nds Count is co-funding a study focusing on the spread of secondary breast cancer to the brain. The funding collaboration, in partnership with Breast Cancer Ireland, will bring the study to patients with secondary breast cancer across the UK and Ireland.

The £219,560 grant will enable researchers to investigate screening asymptomatic patients for brain metastases in the hope that early detection will improve survival rates.

Patients with HER2-positive secondary breast cancer are at much higher risk of the disease spreading to the brain but there is currently no regular screening regime to identify metastases before symptoms show. The HER2-CNS Surveillance study aims to investigate the feasibility of recruiting HER2-positive secondary breast cancer patients with no signs of brain metastases, conducting an initial brain MRI for brain metastases detection and then randomising patients into two groups: one to receive six-monthly brain MRI for a year and another that will not receive the additional scans – the current standard.

Chair of the Make 2nds Count board of trustees Professor David Cameron said: “This research will subsequently enable a larger study that will explore the benefits of regular brain scanning for detecting brain metastases early in HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer patients when no symptoms are present.

“A key driver of Make 2nds Count is the ability to bring fresh hope to secondary breast cancer patients and their families. So we are thrilled to be able to fund this initial research which we believe could lead to more positive outcomes for greater numbers of patients.”

Initially, the aim is to recruit 69 patients from cancer centres in Birmingham, London, Liverpool, Cardiff Manchester, Edinburgh and Dublin. Co-chief investigators are professor of translational oncology at University of Liverpool and consultant in medical oncology at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool, Professor Carlo Palmieri and consultant oncologist at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust Dr Sara Meade.

Some preliminary data on the frequency of brain metastases detection in patients having a brain scan with no symptoms will be collected. Qualitative themes will also be embedded into the research which will discuss attitudes towards the study with eligible participants, barriers to recruitment and whether randomisation is a barrier or facilitator to enrolment. The Sussex Health Outcomes, Research & Education in Cancer (SHORE-C) group at Brighton and Sussex Medical School will be responsible for these qualitative research themes.

Professor Palmieri said: “I am really pleased that we will be able to launch this important research into metastatic breast cancer. It will set out to discover if regular brain scanning of those with secondary breast cancer is a viable and useful option when monitoring this cohort of patients. We are very grateful to Make 2nds Count for recognising how useful this research will be.”

Picture: Professor Carlo Palmieri is co-chief investigator of the study.

Published on page 13 of the June 2023 issue of RAD Magazine.

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