Drug Adds 16 Months to Survival Time for Metastatic Breast Cancer

Swiss drug company, Roche, found that a new drug may increase survival time up to 32 percent in patients with metastatic breast cancer in a multi-center, randomized third party trial.

"We've never seen anything like this before," Dr. Sandra M. Swain, of Washington's Medstar Washington Hospital Center, said in a statement.

The study indicates that Perjeta blocks a protein called HER2, which increases the growth of some breast tumors. For cancers with an excess of HER2, doctors often pari the drug Herceptin with Perjeta in a combined treatment.

The study included 808 patients world wide with HER2-postitive metastatic breast cancer that had not previously been treated. Half of the participants received Perjeta, Herceptin and docetaxel, the chemotherapy drug. The other half received Herceptin and docetaxel with a placebo. The difference was significant. Those who received the Perjeta had a median estimated survival time of 56.5 months whereas those without the drug had a 40.8 month median estimated survival time. 

Perjeta can have side effects like diarrhea, rashes and lower white blood cell counts. However, those who participated in the survey and received the drug did not experience side effects any more than those who were taking the placebo. 

The study results show Perjeta may provide the longest amount of survival time for a drug used to treat the nearly one-quarter of all breast cancer patients who are diagnosed with the HER2 positive form of the disease.

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