New breast cancer medicine approved - Tucson Local Media: News

New breast cancer medicine approved

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Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 4:00 am

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted approval for a treatment to be used before surgery in people with HER2-Positive early stage breast cancer.

Now, according to the FDA, the molecule Perjeta can be used in combination with chemotherapy and Herceptin, for those with HER2-Positive breast cancer with tumors two centimeters or greater. This also includes patients who have this cancer spread to their lymph nodes.

Dr. Rachel Swart, of Arizona Oncology, is involved with this treatment and understands the benefit it can offer her patients.

“We found that by treating their disease and clearing the disease up front, we can improve patients’ overall survival,” Swart said. “We can improve patients’ disease-free survival and we can ultimately give them better surgical outcomes, as far as cosmetically, when we can shrink the cancer and/or the lymph nodes.”

The molecules Perjeta and Herceptin target HER2, which is a protein receptor found on the outer lining of a cancer cell. Herceptin binds itself to the protein, which hinders the cancer’s ability to activate and essentially grow. HER2 has the ability to bind to itself and other family members HER1, HER3, and HER4. Perjeta blocks HER2’s ability to bind with its other family members, which helps hinder the stimulation for cancer growth.

“So we are blocking the HER2 molecule at two different sites to prevent any stimulation of the cancer cells to grow,” said Swart. “By blocking the HER2, we are killing the cancer. We are not allowing it to grow anymore, so the cancer is basically shrinking and dying.”

Clinical trials for new molecules take, on average, 10 to 12 years to gain FDA approval allowing for five to seven years for trials.

To see this treatment option come this far gives Swart hope for both current and future patients, and she recalled a recent conversation she had with a colleague. 

“We’ve thought of the patients that we’ve had nothing to offer,” To go in a matter of less than 10 years with having nothing to having the possibility of turning to your patients and saying, ‘we give you this, we may be able to cure you of your breast cancer.’ It’s a feeling that I cannot describe. I honestly never thought I would be able to say that.”

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