New drugs show promise against advanced breast cancer

Scientists have found two new medicines that could keep breast cancer in check.

The drugs significantly delay the time until women with very advanced cases get worse.

In a large international study, an experimental drug from Genentech called pertuzumab held cancer at bay for a median of 18 months when given with standard treatment, versus 12 months for others given only the usual treatment.

It also strongly appears to be improving survival, and follow-up is continuing to see if it does.

“You don’t see that very often. It’s a spectacular result,” the New York Daily News quoted Dr. Sandra Swain, medical director of Washington Hospital Centre’s cancer institute and a study leader, as saying.

In a second study, another drug long used in organ transplants but not tried against breast cancer — everolimus, sold as Afinitor by Novartis AG — kept cancer in check for a median of 7 months in women whose disease was worsening despite treatment with hormone-blocking drugs.

A comparison group that received only hormonal medicine had just a 3-month delay in disease progression.

The results of the two studies were recently released at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium and were published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

It is assumed that the new drugs are likely to be very expensive — up to 10,000 dollars a month — and so far have not proved to be cures.

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