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From Taxotere plus Herceptin improves survival

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Taxotere plus Herceptin improves survival

Treatment of breast cancer is getting better by leaps and bounds, with newer and newer drugs and drug combinations showing improvement from previous standards. A New study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that a combination of Taxotere and Herceptin works better than Taxotere alone in women with advanced breast cancer. Moreover the study has shown that there is no significant increase in the side effects when Trastuzumab (Herceptin) was added to taxotere.

This study was multicenter randomized, and designed to compare first line treatment of patients with metastatic breast cancer (breast cancer that has spread to distant organs). The synergistic action between taxotere and herceptin was previously shown in other studies. The lead author of the study was Michel Marty from Innovative Therapeutics in Paris. Michel Marty and his colleagues treated 186 women with HER2-positive advanced breast cancer with six cycles of Taxotere with or without Herceptin.

The following were the highlights from the study Taxotere plus herceptin Vs Taxotere alone:

  • Overall response rate 61% v 34% (P = .0002)
  • Overall survival median, 31.2 v 22.7 months (P = .0325)
  • Time to disease progression median (11.7 v 6.1 months (P = .0001)
  • Median time to treatment failure 9.8 v 5.3 months (P = .0001)
  • Median duration of response 11.7 v 5.7 months (P = .009)
There was no significant difference in side effects between the two treatment groups except for slightly increased risk of fever and low-white cell count in patients who received the combination treatment.

More about Trastuzumab (Herceptin)
Trastuzumab (Herceptin) is a monoclonal antibody that blocks a growth promoting protein known as HER2/neu. This protein is normally present in small amounts in normal breast tissue and most breast cancer cells. In about 20% of the patients with breast cancer, the amount of this Her2/neu protein is increased to a much greater level. Patients who have higher levels of this protein are called Her2/neu positive and tend to have more aggressive breast cancers. Herceptin is capable of blocking the growth stimulating effect caused by the Her2/neu protein. Herceptin may also be capable of stimulating the immune system to set up a more efficient attack on the abnormally growing cancer cells. Herceptin is an effective treatment choice for some patients with Her2/neu positive breast cancer patients who had return of cancer or who are resistant to most of the chemotherapy drugs. Herceptin works much better in combination with chemotherapy in many patients. Use of Herceptin in the setting of adjuvant therapy is still investigational with several clinical trials ongoing to determine this issue. Herceptin is much well tolerated and accepted by patients compared to chemotherapy. The most common side effects or herceptin are infusion related. These may include fever, rigor, chills, weakness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and allergic rashes. Herceptin may cause damage to the heart muscle in about 5 to10 percent of women who receive this drug. This risk of heart damage may increase two to three fold if herceptin is used in combination with doxorubicin or epirubicin. Patients receiving herceptin should be aware of this side effect so that they can alert the physician to this possibility if they develop any decrease in their exercise tolerance. While chemotherapy may affect healthy cells as well as cancerous cells, herceptin specifically targets mostly tumor cells that produce larger amounts of the HER2/neu protein. Patients who are given herceptin alone may be less likely to experience the side effects typical of other types of treatments, such as hair loss, fatigue, or a decline in blood counts.

Cancer terms:
Invasive: Invading to surrounding tissues. A cancer is said to be invasive if it breaks the normal boundaries and invade to the surrounding tissues. Example an invasive cancer or carcinoma is a cancer or carcinoma that has broken down the normal surrounding boundaries. See cancer terms for more cancer related terms. Taxotere plus Herceptin improves survival

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