New drug for HER-2 positive breast cancer patients



A new drug, (T-DM1), has been shown to increase the survival time of some hard-to-treat patients by almost six months. The clinical data showed it extended the lives of patients with advanced HER-2 positive breast cancer by 30.9 months compared with 25.1 months with standard therapy. 

Around 10,000 British women are diagnosed with HER-2 positive breast cancer each year, representing about one in five of those affected. 

Paul Ellis, professor of cancer medicine at King’s College, London, said this type of cancer was very aggressive and once it reached the advanced stage became very difficult to treat. 

He said: These results are truly outstanding and will positively alter the outlook and outcomes for patients. 

Conclusions from the study, an international trial involving 991 women, were presented  at the European Society for Medical Oncology’s annual meeting in Vienna. 

T-DM1 combines the drug Herceptin with a powerful chemotherapy agent, and is designed to penetrate cancer cells and destroy them from within. 

According to Roche, who hope to obtain a UK licence next year, because its action is so precise, a normally toxic form of chemotherapy can be used with few side effects. 

Professor Ellis, said the trial results were remarkable in patients with advanced disease who had relapsed on existing treatment. He said 1,000 such women a year in the UK would benefit from it. Eventually it could also be used at an earlier stage. 

Dr Caitlin Palframan, policy manager at the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "While these results are good, this treatment still has some way to go before it could be made generally available in this country." 


October - December Cancer Watch 2012
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