On Sunday, researchers reported that a drug used to treat advanced breast cancer appears to have unprecedented success in prolonging lives in clinical trials.
Perjeta, known generically as pertuzumab, is a drug used to treat advanced breast cancer that was developed by the Swiss drug maker Roche.
Patients who received Perjeta had a median survival time nearly 16 months longer than those in the control group of the clinical trials.
According to researchers, that is the longer amount of time for a drug used as an initial treatment for metastatic breast cancer. It may even be one of the longer for the treatment of any cancer.
Metastatic means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Most cancer drugs prolong patient survival rates for a few months at most.
According to the lead author of the study, it is unprecedented for a drug to have this survival benefit.
Until this recent study it was uncertain by how much Perjeta increased survival because patients had not been followed long enough. Previous analyses of clinical trials established that the drug increased survival by a statistically significant amount.
Two experts not involved in the study were impressed by the results; they told The New York Times that usually drugs only increase survival by 2 months.
Perjeta blocks the action of a protein called HER2 which spurs the growth of some breast tumors. Perjeta is meant to be used with Herceptin for about 20% of breast cancers characterized by an abundance of HER2.
Perjeta was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012 and is already considered the standard of care in the U.S.
The results of this study could lead to an increased use of the drug. Currently only about ½ of the women eligible are being treated with the drug in the U.S.