December 16, 2009

Herceptin® Given Concurrently with Chemotherapy May Provide Most Benefit


The results of a Phase III clinical trial confirm that Herceptin® (trastuzumab) reduces the risk of recurrence among women with early-stage, HER2-positive breast cancer, and also suggest that treatment with Herceptin should begin concurrently with chemotherapy. These results were presented at the 2009 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Twenty to 25 percent of breast cancers overexpress (make too much of) a protein known as HER2. Overexpression of this protein leads to increased growth of cancer cells and a worse breast cancer prognosis. Fortunately, the development of drugs such as Herceptin that specifically target HER2-positive cells has improved prognosis for women with HER2-positive breast cancer.

The optimal timing of Herceptin was evaluated in a Phase III clinical trial known as NCCTG N9831. The study enrolled women with Stage I-III HER2-positive breast cancer.  All women received chemotherapy with doxorubicin and cylophosphamide followed by paclitaxel, and some women also received Herceptin. Herceptin was given either at the same time as paclitaxel or later (after chemotherapy had been completed).

  • Patients who were treated with Herceptin had a 30% reduction in the risk of their cancer returning when compared with patients who received chemotherapy alone. More than 80% of the patients who received Herceptin were alive and free of disease after five years of follow-up.
  • Women who started Herceptin during chemotherapy appeared to derive the most benefit.

The results of the study confirm that Herceptin improves outcomes among women with early-stage, HER2-positive breast cancer, and also suggest that starting Herceptin during chemotherapy may produce better results than starting it after chemotherapy has been completed.

Reference: Perez E, Suman VJ, Davidson NE et al. Results of chemotherapy alone, with sequential or concurrent addition of 52 weeks of trastuzumab in the NCCTG N9831 HER2-positive adjuvant breast cancer trial. Presented at the 32nd CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. December 9-13, 2009. San Antonio, TX. Abstract 80.

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