Ribociclib (Kisqali, Novartis) is one of a class of drugs known as CDK4/6 inhibitors, which have recently been introduced to NHS care and work by targeting two crucial cells division proteins. 

The MONALEESA-7 trial followed 672 premenopausal women with hormone positive, HER2-negative metastatic disease from 188 centres across 30 countries, to assess whether the addition of ribociclib to hormone therapy as a first-line treatment increased women’s overall survival.

After following these women for 42 months, the researchers found that the survival rate was 70% in women receiving ribociclib with an aromatase inhibitor, compared to 43% for women only receiving an aromatase inhibitor.

This drug combination was made available on the NHS in December 2017 to pre- and post-menopausal patients, following major trial results showing it can delay the progression of the disease. 

Today’s results now represent the first evidence that the delay in disease progression that this treatment offers can also translate into overall life-extension for premenopausal patients.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now, said: 

This is indescribably good news for patients and their families. We have known for some time that giving ribociclib with an aromatase inhibitor can slow the spread of incurable breast cancer, but to now know that it can also extend life for premenopausal patients is the new hope that so many families have been waiting for.

The recent introduction of this class of drugs to NHS care has offered a long-awaited step forward in our ability to delay the progression of the most common type of incurable breast cancer. It is now absolutely fantastic to see the very first evidence that ribociclib can give thousands of younger women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer more time to live. We cannot put into words what it will mean for so many women to be able to spend precious extra time with their families and create memories that will last a lifetime.

We now eagerly await further results to fully understand the life-extension that this and other similar drugs may offer, as well as their survival benefit in postmenopausal women. This class of drugs, and the way it slows cancer growth, represents one of the greatest advances in breast cancer research in recent decades and it’s vital we ensure that all patients who could benefit are able to access it.

The study also showed that the survival rate (at 42 months) for patients receiving ribociclib with tamoxifen was 71%, compared to 55% for those just receiving tamoxifen – however ribociclib is not current licensed for use with tamoxifen. 

Overall, the survival rate for adding ribociclib to hormone therapy (including either aromatase inhibitor therapy or tamoxifen) was 70%, compared to 46% for women who received hormone therapy alone.