Millions of women are suffering from breast cancer today. Many drug companies and associations have been working hard on developing solutions for treating the deadly disease and spreading general awareness to get an earlier breast cancer screening. Recently a study reveals that combination of drugs and chemotherapy can help women suffering with early breast cancer by destroying 46% of breast tumors.
About the combo drug
The drugs in question are GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s (GSK) oral breast cancer medicine Tykerb and California-based Genentech’s, now part of the Swiss company Roche, Herceptin oncology drug. According to new study, when these drugs used together before surgery, are more effective when combined with standard chemotherapy than either one on its own.
Both medicines work by blocking the function of HER2, a protein overproduced in about 25% of all breast cancers. The drugs bind to different regions of the HER2 receptor. Herceptin blocks the protein on the cell’s surface, whereas Tykerb does it inside the cell. Because both drugs have an action on HER2 protein but at different sites, researchers aim for more complete blockage of the pathway.
About the study
The study was led by Dr. Jose Baselga, associate director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. He tested these drugs alone and in combination in 455 patients, who were also given the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel. The patients were treated for about four months before surgery to remove their tumors and for nine months afterwards. It was the first test of Herceptin and Tykerb together for early-stage disease. The results showed that:
- The two drugs combination with chemotherapy eradicated tumors in 46% of the patients, which is 50% more than was seen with the standard...
therapy of Herceptin plus chemotherapy.
- Combining the two drugs alone eliminated the tumor in 17% of cases.
The studies were presented during 33rd annual meeting of the CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, in San Antonio, Texas.
According to researchers, combination therapy was not associated with a significant increase in side effects or cardiac risk. But the major concern of the combination treatment is cost. Tykerb costs $5,000 to $6,000 per month, whereas Herceptin costs more than $4,000 a month plus Physician’s fee to infuse the drug.
Researchers are fascinated with the results and said the future of cancer care looks bright for approaches like this that use targeted drugs well matched to patients’ tumor profiles.
Undoubtly, it is an outstanding finding in treating tumor in early breast cancer patients. But drug companies and health care associations should come up with lower cost strategies that can increase the affordability of the drugs for the patients and improve their quality of life.