New research shows that adding Herceptin to chemotherapy for certain breast cancer patients increases overall survival and reduces the risk of recurrence compared to chemotherapy alone.
The study was published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on October 20th. It was supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and others including Genentech, the company that makes Herceptin.
By adding a year of Herceptin to standard chemotherapy improved overall survival by 37%. The addition of Herceptin also boosted 10-year overall survival rates from 75% to 84%.
The study found that the 10 year disease free survival rate increased from 62% to 74% for those also taking Herceptin.
In the study, women with a type of breast cancer known as HER2-positive were given Herceptin.
Up to 20% of invasive breast cancers are HER2-positive. Too much human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) helps breast cancer cells grow. Herceptin target HER2 proteins in order to stop cancer cell growth.
Previous research suggests that adding Herceptin to standard chemotherapy could improve outcomes was first reported in 2005. One of the reports was updated in 2011.
The research team combined information from two of the larger studies and updated the findings. The new review followed more than 4,000 women with breast cancer. Half of the women received chemotherapy and the other half received chemotherapy plus one year of treatment with Herceptin.
Researchers discovered that adding Herceptin improved overall survival by 37%. Ther addition of Herceptin also boosted disease-free survival by 40%.
The major finding was that adding Herceptin has long-term benefit to decrease cancer recurrence and improve survival.
Previous studies did note that cardiac problems were linked with Herceptin. In the update, researchers found that the increase in heart problems was minor. Heart-related deaths occurred in .2% of the Herceptin group versus .1% in women who didn’t get Herceptin.
Unfortunately, Herceptin is expensive, with a one-year course costing about $64,000 according to the manufacturer of the drug. However, the company does offer patient assistance for those who may have difficulty paying for the drugs according to the firm’s website.