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Cancer drug could extend life by 5 years, research finds

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A breast cancer drug could extend the lives of patients with an advanced form of the disease by almost five years, a study has found.

Women with an aggressive type of cancer, which has traditionally been hard to treat, could benefit from using perjeta as a combination therapy with chemotherapy and herceptin, researchers said.

A trial into the effectiveness of the combination of drugs found that survival among women with previously untreated advanced HER2-positive breast cancer was extended by more than four and a half years.

The median overall survival rate for women treated with perjeta with docetaxel (chemotherapy) and herceptin was 56.5 months, compared with 40.8 months for those treated with docetaxel and herceptin alone, according to data presented at the European Society of Medical Oncology in Madrid, Spain.

“These data represent a significant step forward in the fight against breast cancer “

Professor David Miles

UK study lead Professor David Miles, consultant medical oncologist at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in north-west London, said: “These results are impressive.

“They show a magnitude of survival benefit which we have never seen before in advanced breast cancer, let alone this particular type, previously regarded as having a poor prognosis and being difficult to treat.

“The observation that women with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer can live alongside their disease for so many years is frankly unprecedented. These data represent a significant step forward in the fight against breast cancer with combination therapies such as this paving the way for cancer treatments in the future.”

Perjeta, manufactured by drug company Roche, is a targeted treatment which works to block cancer cell growth and cell signalling.

The drug is currently only available through the Cancer Drugs Fund. In August last year the NHS financial watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, rejected widespread use of the treatment in draft guidance but the final recommendation has not yet been issued.

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