Herceptin® Improves Survival in Early Breast Cancer

Herceptin® Improves Survival in Early Breast Cancer.

According to results from recent large clinical trials, the addition of the targeted agent Herceptin® (trastuzumab) to chemotherapy improves cancer-free and overall survival in patients with early breast cancer.

Breast cancer is diagnosed in over 200,000 women annually in the United States alone. Early breast cancer refers to cancer that has not spread outside the breast. Standard treatment for early breast cancer often includes the surgical removal of the cancer followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Long-term outcomes are promising overall for patients with early breast cancer who are treated with standard therapy. However, a significant portion of patients may experience a cancer recurrence, which is ultimately responsible for deaths caused by breast cancer.

The HER2 pathway is associated with growth and replication of cancer cells. Some cancer cells overexpress HER2, and are referred to as HER2-positive. Herceptin® is a monoclonal antibody that is targeted against the human epidermal growth factor-2 (HER2) pathway. Herceptin® binds to distinct components of HER2-positive cells and disrupts cellular replication. The addition of Herceptin® to chemotherapy has demonstrated improved outcomes, including survival, in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer and studies are ongoing to evaluate Herceptin® in different stages of the disease. Herceptin® is currently approved for treatment as a single agent in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer that has progressed or recurred following prior therapy, or in combination with the chemotherapy agent paclitaxel (Taxol®) in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer who have not received prior therapy.

Two large clinical trials were recently conducted by researchers affiliated with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) and the North Central Cancer Treatment Group (NCCTG) evaluating Herceptin® in early breast cancer. Interim results have recently been reported including over 3,000 women with HER2-positive breast cancer. Women were treated with either Herceptin® plus the chemotherapy combination consisting of doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide and paclitaxel, or the chemotherapy combination alone. Overall, cancer-free survival and overall survival were improved in patients treated with the addition of Herceptin®, compared to those treated with chemotherapy alone. The researchers concluded that the addition of Herceptin® to chemotherapy appears to improve survival in patients with early breast cancer that is HER2-positive. Further data will be revealed at the upcoming annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in May 2005.

Reference: Genentech. Interim Analysis of Phase III Studies Shows Herceptin Plus Chemotherapy Improves Disease-Free Survival in the Adjuvant Setting for Early-Stage HER2-Positive Breast Cancer Patients. Available at: . Accessed April 2005.

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