Cancer study backs Roche’s Herceptin with chemo

* Herceptin suited to many advanced, inflammatory cancers

* Study finds drug works well combined with chemotherapy

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, Jan 29 (BestGrowthStock) – Roche’s (ROG.VX: ) cancer drug
Herceptin combined with chemotherapy works better than
chemotherapy alone in patients with a certain type of advanced
or inflammatory breast cancer, doctors said on Friday.

They said the drug, a billion-dollar seller for the Swiss
company, was particularly effective for many women with advanced
or inflammatory breast cancer because many of them have tumours
which overproduce a protein called the human epidermal growth
factor receptor-2, or HER2.

Luca Gianni of the National Cancer Institute in Milan,
Italy, compared patients with HER2-positive breast cancer
treated with chemotherapy and Herceptin combined for one year
with patients treated with chemotherapy alone.

Herceptin, also known as trastuzumab, significantly improved
event-free survival, he wrote in a study in The Lancet medical
journal, with 71 percent of patients treated with the
combination surviving for three years without their disease
worsening, versus 56 percent who were not given Herceptin.

Locally advanced breast cancers are cases where the tumour
has grown to larger than about 5 centimetres across. It accounts
for between 6 and 10 percent of new cases of breast cancer and
patients have a worse prognosis than those whose tumours are
found soon enough to be operated on.

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare subtype of breast
cancer that is particularly aggressive.

While HER2-posaitive tumours account for around 20 percent
of all breast cancers, the proportions of locally-advanced and
inflammatory breast cancer cases that are HER2-positive are
higher — at 35 percent and 40 percent respectively.

“Patients with HER2-positive locally advanced or
inflammatory breast cancer are therefore in particular need of
effective treatment,” Gianni wrote.

A study published last September found many women are never
tested to see if HER2-targeted drugs would work for them,
suggesting many breast cancer patients who might benefit from
Herceptin were not getting it, while some women taking the drug
had never been properly tested. [ID:nLE619364]

British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK.L: ) also has a
medicine for HER2-positive breast cancer called Tykerb.

Breast cancer kills 400,000 women around the world every
year and 40,000 in the United States alone.

Many studies have shown a low-fat diet, regular exercise,
keeping a lean weight and breastfeeding babies can prevent
breast cancer, but a significant percentage of cases are caused
by faulty genes and not linked to lifestyle.

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(Editing by Sam Cage and David Holmes)

Cancer study backs Roche’s Herceptin with chemo