Breast Cancer Drug May Work Just as Well with Briefer Treatment

Herceptin has proved to be effective in prolonging the lives of the 12 percent of women with breast cancer whose malignancy hasn't spread to other organs and whose cancer is HER2-positive. But side effects can be a problem

Herceptin has proved to be effective in prolonging the lives of the 12 percent of women with breast cancer whose malignancy hasn't spread to other organs and whose cancer is HER2-positive. But side effects can be a problem

Herceptin, a biotech drug that costs about Dollars 76,700 a year in the United States, generated worldwide sales of more than Dollars 7 billion for Roche in 2017. If a shorter treatment duration is widely adopted it could significantly reduce sales. They found that 89.4 per cent of those given Herceptin for six months were cancer-free four years later, compared with 89.8 per cent of those who took it for 12 months.

The Herceptin trial is one of thousands of cancer drug studies set to be presented at ASCO's annual meeting next month in Chicago.

Patients with early HER2-positive breast cancer are usually given Herceptin (trastuzumab) every three weeks for a year, costing about £22,000. About 15 percent are early-stage HER2 disease.

However, the medication can prompt a range of side effects ranging from high temperatures to heart problems, which often become more severe the longer treatment goes on.

New research suggests that many women with a common and aggressive form of breast cancer that is treated with Herceptin can get by with six months of the drug instead of the usual 12.

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