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Two New Drug Combos May Fight Advanced Breast Cancers
Date:12/8/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Breast cancer researchers report they are heartened by the results of two new studies that show combination therapies might improve survival for women with two different types of advanced tumors.

One of the drugs, everolimus (Afinitor), boosted progression-free survival in women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer but is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this indication. The other drug, pertuzumab, improved survival with HER-2 positive tumors, but has not received any FDA approval.

So, the immediate clinical implications are probably "none," said Dr. Jose Baselga, lead author of both studies, which are to be presented at the 2011 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium Wednesday and published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In time, though, they could be "practice-changing," said Baselga, chief of hematology/oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston. "The benefits were very significant."

In the first study, 724 postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer were randomly assigned to receive the aromatase inhibitor Aromasin (exemestane) plus a placebo or Aromasin plus Afinitor, which is already approved for treatment of kidney cancer.

Women receiving Afinitor lived an average of 7.4 months without a recurrence, versus only 3.2 months in the placebo group.

Half of the women receiving Afinitor showed some kind of tumor response compared to 25 percent in the control group.

"This is one of the most positive studies in hormone receptor-positive breast cancer," said Baselga.

It's not clear yet whether the drug improves overall survival, said the authors of the study, which was funded by Afinitor's maker, Novartis.

The second study involved 808 patients with HER2-positive breast cancer which had already
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