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Survival in metastatic breast cancer patients is improving: targeted therapies have contributed
Date:3/26/2010

ositive patients diagnosed with breast cancer from the year 2000 onwards.

Dr Sundquist said: "There is no doubt that trastuzumab (Herceptin), which targets the HER2 gene, is the most important reason for the improved survival in this group of patients, and use of the chemotherapy drugs known as anthracyclines also contributed.

"In the group of HER2 positive patients that had the most aggressive type of breast cancer (grade III), 45% of those patients that received trastuzumab had survived more than three years and 30% more than five years," Dr Sundquist added.

"Patients whose breast tumours have spread outside of the breast and armpit areas are essentially incurable. However, some patients live even decades with a good quality of life despite an initially widespread tumour burden, while others fail to respond to any therapy. To explore and try to understand these mechanisms would make it easier to tailor the treatment for each individual patient," Dr Sundquist will say.

A new era of breast cancer treatment started with the gene-targeted therapy of trastuzumab. Since then, a number of similar targeted therapies including antibodies or inhibitors of specific genes have been developed. This will open new avenues in the treatment of all metastatic breast cancers and also of primary breast cancer.

"These new targeted therapies will, at least in the beginning after their development, be very costly for healthcare systems. On the other hand they will make it possible for many women to lead almost normal lives, work and contribute to society for an increased number of years," she concluded.

The researchers intend to follow up their work by performing genetic analyses of the tumours with different responsiveness to specific treatments. "Health care systems will need to provide tools for the routine clinical assessment of a number of genes related to treatment response," she added.


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Contact: Kay Roche
kayroche@gmail.com
ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation
Source:Eurekalert

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