Breakthrough drug that can keep breast cancer at bay for longer

Breakthrough: Women on pertuzumab alongside

Breakthrough: Women on pertuzumab alongside “wonder” drug Herceptin lived for 18 months without symptoms worsening

A breakthrough drug gives women suffering an aggressive form of breast cancer an extra six months before the disease advances.

Women on a combination treatment of pertuzumab alongside the ‘wonder’ drug Herceptin lived on average for 18 months without their disease worsening, compared with 12 months for those not taking it.

Doctors are hailing the dual therapy as a ‘quantum leap forward’ that will change treatment in the same way Herceptin did five years ago.

A quarter of the 48,000 Britons diagnosed with breast cancer each year have the HER2 positive form, which is more aggressive.

When the disease starts to spread they are prescribed Herceptin which holds the disease at bay for around a year – six months longer than chemotherapy alone.

But now pertuzumab can give the same benefit again, according to trial results released at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, Texas.

The Cleopatra study of 800 women – including Britons whose HER2 positive cancer was spreading – showed the new drug, plus Herceptin and chemotherapy, significantly improved the chances of stalling the disease.

Those on the new drug lived on average 18.5 months before the disease worsened, compared with 12.4 months for women on Herceptin and chemotherapy.

Combination: Doctors are hailing this dual therapy of Herceptin and pertuzumab as a

Combination: Doctors are hailing this dual therapy of Herceptin and pertuzumab as a “quantum leap forward” that will change treatment

Dr David Miles, consultant medical oncologist, at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, in Northwood, Middlesex, said: ‘The magnitude of the benefit we see from the addition of pertuzumab to Herceptin is impressive.’

Around four out of five patients positively respond to the drug, with most of the remaining patients having their disease stabilised with few side effects, he added.

Women with early breast cancer can cut their chances of dying from the disease by around one-third with a bone-strengthening drug, claim Austrian researchers. Zoledronic acid, a cheap drug widely used to prevent bone loss, when added to existing hormone therapies can reduce recurrence of the disease by 28 per cent.