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Chemo With Herceptin May Be Best for Some Breast Cancers

Taking the drug during chemotherapy, rather than after, improves survival, study finds

SATURDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that certain breast cancer patients who take the drug Herceptin during chemotherapy, instead of taking it afterward, fare better, leading one of the study authors to say patients should routinely take the drug with chemo.

The patients at issue are those with HER2-positive breast cancer, which accounts for 20 percent to 25 percent of all cases of the disease.

Researchers looked at the outcomes for hundreds of women who underwent different treatment regimens. Their findings were to be released at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, sponsored by the Cancer Therapy & Research Center of the University of Texas, the American Association for Cancer Research and Baylor College of Medicine.

The study found that patients who used Herceptin (also known by the generic name trastuzumab) and chemotherapy together were 25 percent less likely to experience a cancer recurrence or death than those who used the drug after chemotherapy.

"The results of this trial have been eagerly awaited in the U.S. and in many nations as this is the only trial developed to define the optimal way to incorporate Herceptin in the context of adjuvant chemotherapy," Dr. Edith Perez, a breast cancer researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., said in a news release. "This could mean that up to 10,000 women around the world each year may have a better outcome if Herceptin is used along with chemotherapy. Given that, I believe this study will lead to a global re-evaluation of how Herceptin is used."

More information

Learn more about breast cancer from U.S. National Library of Medicine.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, Dec. 12, 2009

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