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Curing with a Shorter Treatment

posted May 17, 2018, 7:13 AM by PHS Warrior Beat

By: Alexis Cullen

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    In the United States, there are approximately 200,000 cases of breast cancer.

    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, greatly reducing the risk of heart damage it sometimes can cause, a study suggests.

    According to NBC, the study was done in the United Kingdom and funded by UK government grants. Results were released Wednesday by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and will be presented at the group’s meeting next month.

    Herceptin transformed care of a dreaded disease when it was approved in 1998 for women with advanced breast cancers whose growth is aided by a faulty HER2 gene, as 15 percent to 20 percent of cases are.

    The main downfall about this drug is that it can hurt the heart’s ability to pump. This usually will ease up once the treatment is stopped completely but sometimes the damage can be permanent and can cause heart failure.

    Dr. Helena Earl, the study leader of the University of Cambridge in England said that “it’s great news.”

    “There’s no reason to not immediately change practice. The findings are persuasive,” said Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer for the oncology society. Most of Herceptin’s cancer-fighting benefit seems to come in the early months of use, he said.

    According to NBC, Herceptin is given through an IV every three weeks; a year of it costs $34,000 to $40,000 in England and about $70,000 in the U.S.

    A breast cancer expert at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Dr. Harold Burstein said, shorter treatment may increase access to the drug in countries where many women can’t afford it now, but that in the U.S.

    “My guess is that people will continue to aim for a year of treatment” because of lingering concerns that longer use is better, as a smaller, previous study suggested, said Burstein.

    The drug, herceptin’s developer, Genentech, said in a statement that the new study must be viewed along with several smaller previous ones that found one year to be best.

    The ultimate goal of the treatment, “is to provide people with the best chance for a cure,” said the statement from Genentech.

Uploaded: 5/17/18

Edited by: CQ