No Benefit Seen in Extending Herceptin for Breast Cancer
FRIDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- For women with a specific
type of breast cancer, taking Herceptin for a year after initial
treatment is just as effective -- and safer -- than staying on it
for a longer period, new research suggests.
Many of the women in the study, who had HER2-postive early stage
breast cancer, were cancer-free eight years later and experienced
no major heart problems, the international study on Herceptin
"Giving trastuzumab for [two years] did not improve disease-free
or overall survival, compared with one year of trastuzumab
treatment," study author Dr. Martine Piccart, president of the
European Society for Medical Oncology and chairwoman of the Breast
International Group, said in a news release from the American
Association for Cancer Research.
The study was run by the Breast International Group and Roche,
the maker of Herceptin.
HER2-positive cancers are a particularly aggressive form of the
disease and occur in 20 percent of breast cancer diagnoses,
according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
The new phase 3 trial involved more than 5,000 women from
several countries. After completing initial treatment for their
early stage HER2-positive breast cancer, the women were randomly
assigned to received Herceptin every three weeks for one year, two
years or not at all.
Although the two-year treatment was no more effective than one
year, heart problems occurred more frequently among the women who
received Herceptin for the longer period. Most of the heart
problems were reversible when the treatment was stopped, the
The study proved "that a significant proportion of patients
treated with trastuzumab ... are alive and free of disease
recurrence after a median follow-up of eight years," said Piccart,
who is chief of the medicine department at the Jules Bordet
Institute in Brussels, Belgium.
"It is also reassuring with regard to the low cardiac toxicity
of trastuzumab when given after adjuvant chemotherapy," she added.
"Finally, it confirms that one year of adjuvant trastuzumab should
remain the standard of care in women with HER2-positive early
The research was scheduled for Friday presentation at the 2012
San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. The data and conclusions
should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed
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