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Certain Drug Combinations May Beat Back Aggressive Breast Cancer
Date:12/13/2010

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Combinations of targeted therapies for an especially aggressive type of breast cancer could potentially usher the majority of affected patients into remission, researchers at a major breast cancer meeting said Friday.

Presenting results from three trials at the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, scientists explained that administering two or more drugs designed to treat HER2-positive tumors resulted in much higher remission rates than doses of any one drug or standard chemotherapy alone.

Given to patients several weeks before cancer surgery, with or without chemotherapy, the medications often shrank tumors dramatically or eradicated them altogether, the researchers said.

HER2-positive cancer is receptive to a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, which promotes the growth of malignant cells. Drugs that specifically target HER2 cells -- including Herceptin, Tykerb and pertuzumab -- have been proven effective on these types of tumors, which tend to be more aggressive than other breast cancers.

"I think it's a very exciting era, because we've gone from a very lethal era . . . to a point where we might be able to cure this disease," said Dr. Neil Spector, a professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center, who moderated the symposium session.

Using Tykerb and Herceptin combined with chemotherapy before surgery, researchers followed 2,500 women with early breast cancer at 85 facilities throughout Germany. About half of these patients achieved remission before surgery, said Dr. Michael Untch, head of the multidisciplinary breast cancer department at Helios Clinic in Berlin.

"In a majority of these patients, we could do breast-conserving surgery where previously they were candidates for mastectomy," Untch said.

The team will continue following the patients to see if remission at surgery a
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