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Drug Combo Might Fight Aggressive Breast Cancer More Safely
Date:10/6/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Treating women with an aggressive form of early stage breast cancer using Herceptin and chemotherapy, while not turning to a third type of drug known as an anthracycline, improves survival while posing less danger to the heart, researchers report.

They tested three different regimens, one of which did not include any anthracyclines. When Herceptin is given with doxorubicin (Adriamycin), an anthracycline, toxic cardiac effects have been seen.

"What the study shows is you have comparable effectiveness in a Herceptin-based regimen when you don't use the anthracyclines," said Dr. Dennis Slamon, director of clinical and translational research at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. Earlier research of his led to the development of Herceptin (trastuzumab).

He contends that the new regimen should be the new standard of care, but one expert who wrote an accompanying commentary disagreed.

The new study is published in the Oct. 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Slamon and his colleagues from the Breast Cancer International Research Group tested one of three different treatments in 3,222 women who had HER2-positive early-stage breast cancer. This breast cancer is more aggressive and is linked with a worse outlook and shorter survival times.

One group got a regimen called ACT-- the standard therapy of doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and paraplatin (Carboplatin) followed by docetaxel (Taxotere). A second group got that same standard regimen plus a year of Herceptin -- called ACTH. The third group got the anthracycline-free regimen, called TCH -- doxetaxel (Taxotere) and paraplatin (Carboplatin) with a year of Herceptin.

Herceptin targets HER2, a protein known as human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. In about one of five breast cancers, a gene mutat
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