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November 12th, 2009
Women with Breast Cancer Tumors May Benefit from Cancer Drug

Women who are diagnosed with a fairly uncommon form of breast cancer are much more likely to suffer from recurrence and threat of spreading. Now researchers have found that these women may reduce the risks through treatment with the breast cancer prescription drug Herceptin.

Research has been conducted in the United States and Italy which studied women with small (a diameter of 1 centimetre or less) HER2-positive breast cancer that had not yet spread to lymph nodes. Research concluded that cancer was twice as likely to return in HER2-positive women as those with HER2-negative breast cancers.

It is estimated that there is only a one in four chance that a breast cancer will be HER2-positive. The U.S. study found that HER2-positive women were also at a higher risk of metastasis—the spreading of cancer into other parts of the body—when the cancer returns rather than with HER2-negative tumors.

The study looked at 965 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1990 and 2002. New research is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology Nov 2 Online edition.

At the moment there is no evidence to suggest that women with small tumors receive drug treatment with trastuzumab (Herceptin). Now, the medication is being recommended to them.

Dr. Ana M. Gonzalez-Angula, associate professor in the department of breast cancer medical oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is the lead author of the U.S. study released a news release stating that “We expected the risk of recurrence and metastasis in HER2-positive node-negative patients with small tumors to be higher than in women with HER2-negative tumors, but we didn’t expect the magnitude of this [increased] risk to be so high.” She continued, “This elevated risk is unacceptable, and indicates that women with small HER2-positive node-negative breast tumors should be offered participation in clinical trials assessing anti-HER2 therapies, such as trastuzumab [Herceptin], or other adjuvant treatment.”

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