Researchers reported on Sunday that a drug treating advanced breast cancer has shown pioneering success in extending lives in a clinical trial.
Experts recommended its extensive use for women with an aggressive form of the disease.
Patients who received the drug — Perjeta, on top of older medicine Herceptin and chemotherapy from the Swiss drug maker Roche had a median survival time of almost 16 months longer- longest extension ever, than those on Herceptin and chemotherapy alone.
Perjeta is used against a type of breast cancer known as HER2 positive, which accounts for quarter of all breast cancers.
Both the antibodies, Herceptin or trastuzumab and Perjeta blockes the function of HER2, a protein produced by a cancer-linked gene. The combination is more effective as Perjeta binds to a different part of the same protein.
“The results, I think, are phenomenal,” Dr. Sandra M. Swain of the MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, the lead author of the study told the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) annual congress in Madrid on Sunday.
Dr. Swain has been a paid speaker for the company.
“The survival improvement of nearly 16 months … is unprecedented among studies of metastatic breast cancer.”
Perjeta, also known as pertuzumab, was approved by by the Food and Drug Administration, 2 years back after testing in the Roche-backed study on more than 800 women with metastatic disease, whose breast cancer had spread to other parts of the body.
The cost of the drug is limiting its usage. In the United States, Perjeta costs about $5,900 a month and Herceptin about $5,300 a month, Mr. Edward Lang Jr., a spokesman for Roche said. Some recently approved cancer drugs are even more expensive and costs about $10,000 a month.
Patients receiving Perjeta and the other two drugs lived for a median of 56.5 months—nearly five years—compared with 40.8 months for the patients who didn’t get Perjeta.
Herceptin and Perjeta used to be developed by Genentech, the San Francisco, Calif.-based biotechnology company which was acquired by Roche in 2009.
Those receiving Perjeta had higher rates of diarrhea and rash and a lowering of white blood cell counts. The Swiss drugmaker also has another related drug called Kadcyla, which is also being tested in combination with Perjeta.