Breast Cancer Drug Cuts Risk of Recurrence by Half

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The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium was host to a panel of researchers from VCU Massey Cancer Center who presented the impressive results of their latest drug, Trastuzumab Emtansine. In patients with HER2-positive early-stage breast cancer who had residual disease after receiving neoadjuvant therapy, the antibody-drug conjugate was able to reduce the risk of disease return by 50%.

I believe these results will be practice-changing”, noted Charles Geyer, M.D., medical oncologist specialized in breast cancer and the associate director for clinical research at Massey.

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Katharine Brookeman, 42, is one of the people hoping to take advantage of this ground-breaking therapy. Back in October, she felt a lump on her breasts and immediately went to the doctor. The biopsy confirmed her worst fears – breast cancer, and a particularly aggressive form at that. The HER2-positive type affects one in six patients and has a higher chance of coming back after treatment.

Trastuzumab Emtansine (also known as Kadcyla or T-DM1) is a combination of standard FDA-approved drug Trastuzumab (also known as Herceptin) and a chemotherapy drug called DM1. Kadcyla received the green light from the Food and Drug Administration to treat patients with metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer.

The latest clinical trial for Trastuzumab Emtansine was coincidently enough called KATHERINE. It started in April 2013 and has enrolled 1,486 patients. Results so far pointed towards a significant reduction in the risk of invasive disease recurrence or death.

The key to the success of T-DM1 is that the linker – the piece of the molecule that hooks the chemotherapy drug onto the antibody – is designed to come apart only when the molecule gets inside a cell. It doesn’t fall apart in your bloodstream and harm healthy cells”, explained Harry Bear, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator.

Mrs. Brookeman has a couple more sessions of chemotherapy, the last on being on March 22, before undergoing surgery. The mother of two is praying that this procedure will wipe out the cancer once and for all.

Countless others are in the same situation as Katharine, and thanks to advances in cancer research, they can expect a positive outcome in the fight against this terrible disease.

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