Herceptin improves early survival for women with breast cancer, revealed in the Lancet report. Giving Herceptin to women with a certain type of breast cancer for one year following standard chemotherapy may improve their survival.
Around 15-25% of women with early breast cancer have a type called HER2-receptor positive disease. Herceptin has been shown to reduce the risk of disease recurrence in women with HER2-positive early breast cancer. In the Herceptin Adjuvant (HERA) study, Ian Smith (Royal Marsden Hospital, London, UK) and colleagues assessed the effect of the drug on overall survival after two years follow-up.
On the trial 1703 women were randomised to receive Herceptin for one year after surgery and chemotherapy and 1698 women were assigned to the control group (observation only). They found that more deaths occurred in the observation group than in the drug group (90 vs 59), which corresponds to a survival benefit of 2.7% after 3 years. There were more serious side effects in the Herceptin group than in the observation group.
Dr Smith concludes: “Our results indicate that trastuzumab [Herceptin] shows a significant overall survival benefit in early breast cancer over observation alone after chemotherapy?The survival benefit that has emerged over such a short period emphasises the potential of this approach and underlines the importance of developing further specific targeted therapies in breast and other cancers.”