Drugs used to treat aggressive breast cancer may also be able to halt the disease in its earlier stages, researchers at the University of Nottingham have found.

The University of Nottingham’s school of Medicine discovered that the drug Herceptin, used to treat aggressive cancer, may also be effective in earlier stages of the disease.

Researchers found similar levels of a cancer-causing gene in both patients with aggressive breast cancer and an early, non-invasive form of the disease.

Screening women with this non-invasive cancer for the gene and treating them with the Herceptin could stop the cancer spreading or recurring.

Using drugs which are already known to be effective and safe could save years of costly research and testing of new drugs, which the researchers hope will save lives.

Professor Emad Rakha also suggested that the research could pave the way for further discoveries: “Our mission at Nottingham is to reduce the mortality of breast cancer…we hope this work will underpin further research, which will translate into real benefits for the patients who are affected by this devastating disease.”