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Drug Duo May Help Fight Aggressive Form of Breast Cancer
Date:1/17/2012

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Combining two drugs that target an aggressive type of breast cancer known as HER2-positive appears to work better than using either drug alone, researchers report.

The dual-drug approach greatly boosted the chances of eliminating microscopic signs of early cancer by the time a woman was due to have surgery, said researcher Dr. Jose Baselga, chief of hematology/oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The study was published online Jan. 17 in The Lancet.

The two drugs are Tykerb (lapatinib) and Herceptin (trastuzumab). Using both together resulted in a 51 percent response, compared with a 30 percent response in women given Herceptin alone. Those given Tykerb alone had a 25 percent response.

"What we observed was a massive improvement in response," Baselga said.

GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Tykerb, helped fund the study.

"Lapatinib was approved for advanced breast cancer in 2007," Baselga said. "The question we had was, what is the efficacy if we give it in early-stage breast cancer prior to surgery?"

Baselga and his colleagues conducted a trial treating 455 women from 23 countries. All had HER2-positive breast cancers. All had tumors larger than about three-fourths of an inch.

In HER2-positive breast cancer, test results are positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, which promotes cancer cell growth.

In the study, 154 women got Tykerb, 149 Herceptin and the other 152 both drugs. All had the drug regimen before surgery, with Taxol (paclitaxel), a standard chemotherapy, added after six weeks. After 12 more weeks of treatment, the women had surgery.

At that point, researchers evaluated who had better responses. The women continued the treatments for one more year, allowing researchers to foll
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