A drug that can keep breast cancer at bay
- Dec 10, 2011, 11:22 AM IST
An experimental drug used to treat an aggressive form of breast cancer alongside chemotherapy and another drug has been found giving patients extra six months before their ailment worsens, a breakthrough researchers say could revolutionise treatments of the deadly disease.
A study involving more than 800 women suffering from HER2 breast cancer found that those on a combination treatment of pertuzumab alongside Herceptin and chemotherapy lived an extra 18 months without their disease worsening, compared with 12 months for those not taking the drug.
Doctors are hailing the dual therapy as a "quantum leap forward" that will change treatment in the same way Herceptin did five years ago, the Daily Mail reported.
HER2-positive breast cancer is one the most aggressive form of breast cancer, which promotes the growth of cancer cells. In about one of every five breast cancers, the cancer cells make an excess of HER2 due to a gene mutation.
When the disease starts to spread they are prescribed Herceptin which holds the disease at bay for around a year, six months longer than chemotherapy alone.
But, now pertuzumab can give the same benefit again, according to trial results released at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, Texas. The new study of 800 women showed the new drug, plus Herceptin and chemotherapy, significantly improved the chances of stalling the disease.
Those on the new drug lived on average 18.5 months before the disease worsened, compared with 12.4 months for women on Herceptin and chemotherapy.
"The magnitude of the benefit we see from the addition of pertuzumab to Herceptin is impressive," said Dr David Miles, consultant medical oncologist, at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, in Northwood, Middlesex.
Around four out of five patients positively respond to the drug, with most of the remaining having their disease stabilised with few side effects, he added.