Drug cocktail offers small improvement to breast cancer patients » Manila Bulletin Lifestyle

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By Agence France-Presse

A major clinical trial using a new anti-cancer medicine cocktail by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche produced only a modest gain in survival, researchers said Monday.

The study added pertuzumab (Perjeta) to the standard therapy, trastuzumab (Herceptin), in 4,805 women with HER2 positive breast cancer, an aggressive illness.

(AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

“At an early follow up of three years, 93.2 percent of women who received trastuzumab alone had not developed invasive disease compared with 94.1 percent of those who received pertuzumab and trastuzumab, a difference of one percent,” said the report, released at the American Society for Clinical Oncology conference, the world’s largest gathering of cancer professionals.

“Women with HER2-positive breast cancer used to have a worse prognosis than those with HER2-negative cancer, but the advent of HER2-targeted therapy changed the outlook for these women”, said lead study author Gunter von Minckwitz, president of the German Breast Group in Neu-Isenburg, Germany.

“Our early findings suggest that we may be able to further improve outcomes for some women by adding a second HER2-targeted treatment, without increasing risk for serious side effects.”

Herceptin revolutionized breast cancer treatment after it was approved in 1998.

It works by attaching itself to HER2 receptors on the surface of breast cancer cells and blocking them from receiving growth signals.

Herceptin and Perjeta cost about $70,000 each for one year of use. Together they bring in nine billion dollars a year for Roche.

Between 15 and 25 percent of all breast cancers are HER2-positive.

“The introduction and success of HER2 targeted treatment was a turning point in breast cancer care,” said ASCO expert Harold Burstein, who was not involved in the study.

“It is promising that some women in this study benefited more from treatment with two HER2-targeted therapies rather than one, but it is clear this approach may not be advantageous for women with a lower risk for recurrence.”

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