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Herceptin approved for new breast cancer combination

Published on 04/05/07 at 01:40pm

Herceptin has gained approval in Europe for use in combination with aromatase inhibitor drugs.

Herceptin and aromatase inhibitors each block hormones which fuel the growth of cancers, and the combination of the two in appropriate patients has shown to help fight breast cancer.

Studies show that adding Herceptin to anastrozole (AstraZenecas Arimidex) doubled the average time of progression-free survival from 2.4 months to 4.8 months in postmenopausal patients who are co-positive  - having metastatic breast cancer which is both HER2 and hormone receptor positive.

Around two thirds of breast tumours are hormone receptor positive, and 25% of these are also HER2-positive. TAnDEM is the first randomised study to show that this specific subset of patients with 'co-positive' disease (both HER2- and hormone receptor-positive) are at an increased risk of relapse, which Roche says makes the positive results with Herceptin even more meaningful.

"Today's approval means that, for the first time, a combination of targeted therapies is available for patients who suffer from a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer," commented William Burns, chief executive of Roche Pharmaceuticals.

"Herceptin consistently benefits patients regardless of whether it is given in the early- or advanced-stage settings, or whether it is in combination with chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or as a single agent."

Aromatase inhibitors such as AstraZeneca's Arimidex and Novartis Femara are now establishing themselves as the gold standard treatment for most breast cancer cases, superceding the older drug tamoxifen.

Numerous combinations are now being explored to lengthen survival times in the treatment of breast cancer, one of the most common of all cancers, with 8-9% of women developing the condition.

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