New drug to aid performance of Herceptin in breast cancer

Pharmaceutical company Roche has clinched European approval for its breast cancer drug Perjeta, fuelling the company’s hopes that the drug will become the standard of care for an aggressive, incurable form of the disease.

Roche aims to combine Perjeta with its older drug Herceptin, the company’s second-biggest seller, for women with a form of cancer known as HER2-positive, which makes up about a quarter of all breast cancers and has no cure.

U.S. health regulators approved the drug last June and Perjeta won initial backing from European authorities in December.

Herceptin was launched in 1999 and is applicable to about 20 per cent of women with breast cancer. Mount Vernon Cancer Centre consultant oncologist, Dr David Miles said: ‘Perjeta has been shown to extend survival and control cancer for longer than the current standard of care – showing a magnitude of benefit that has not been seen since the launch of Herceptin more than ten years ago’.

Perjeta works in conjunction with Herceptin and cuts the odds of dying within three years by a third. Some HER-2 cancers manage to block the action of Herceptin and Perjeta gets round this. It thus lengthens the time the cancer stopped progressing from 12.4 to 18.5 months.

However the drug costs nearly £35,000 for a year’s supply and NICE has not yet  (May 2013) decided to formally approve the drug. For the time being it can be obtained within the Government’s Special Drugs Fund.

April - June Cancer Watch 2013
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