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A new treatment closely associated with controversial drug Herceptin could help in the fight against breast cancer.
Like Herceptin, the drug pertuzumab targets the HER-2 gene found in 20% of breast cancer patients.
But while Herceptin blocks a molecular “switch” that promotes cancer growth, the new drug stops the switch being there in the first place.
No other drug before has employed the same mode of action.
A trial in which pertuzumab was used to treat patients with advanced cancer saw tumours in a quarter of the patients disappear or shrink.
In 8% of cases, the cancer effectively vanished.
For a further 25% of patients, cancers which had been progressing were stabilised for at least six months.
All the patients had reached a stage in their illness where their disease was progressing despite treatment with Herceptin.
They continued to receive Herceptin, but with pertuzumab provided as an additional therapy.
Trial investigator Dr David Miles, medical oncologist at Mount Vernon Hospital, north-west London, said: “Its potential lies in its ability to target and block a highly relevant pathway for tumour growth. We are hopeful the combination of trastuzumab and pertuzumab used with chemotherapy will be even more effective if used to treat women newly diagnosed with advanced cancer.”
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