Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Herceptin plus Taxol very effective in treating some lower-risk breast cancer patients

After 3 years, 98.7 percent are cancer-free

MAYWOOD, Ill. – A remarkable 98.7 percent of certain lower-risk breast cancer patients were cancer-free for at least three years after taking a combination of the drugs Herceptin and Taxol, a study has found.

The study is the first major trial to examine the Herceptin-Taxol combination in patients who have a type of breast cancer with the biology known as small, node-negative, HER2+. Results were presented during the 2013 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

“This is great news for patients and their physicians,” said Kathy Albain, MD, of Loyola University Medical Center, who is one of the co-authors of the national multicenter study. “This study identifies a new treatment option for this population of patients that is highly effective and has minimal side effects.” First author is Sara Tolaney, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

About 1 in 4 breast patients have HER2+ breast cancer, meaning their cancer cells have a receptor protein on the surface known as HER2 (Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2).

Herceptin is part of the well-established standard of care for higher-risk HER2+ patients. But there currently is no single standard treatment for patients with the lower-risk HER2+ biology. In these patients, their tumors are small and the cancer has not spread to lymph nodes. Some of these patients currently are not receiving Herceptin, while others are being treated with Herceptin plus more toxic chemotherapy drugs.

The new study finds that an in-between treatment – Herceptin plus the chemotherapy drug Taxol – is highly effective, with few adverse effects. Of the 406 patients studied, only 3.2 percent experienced severe neuropathy and only 0.5 percent had symptoms of congestive heart failure, which resolved after they discontinued Herceptin.

Loyola enrolled patients in the trial and Albain is principal investigator for the Loyola site. She is a professor in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, and directs Loyola’s breast clinical research program.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), located on a 61-acre campus in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH), on a 36-acre campus in Melrose Park, and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. At the heart of LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that houses the Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, a burn center, a children's hospital, Loyola Outpatient Center, and Loyola Oral Health Center. The campus also is home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. The GMH campus includes a 254-licensed-bed community hospital, a Professional Office Building with 150 private practice clinics, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. It serves people and communities in 22 states from coast to coast with 93 hospitals, and 120 continuing care locations — including home care, hospice, PACE and senior living facilities — that provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually.