Shorter Herceptin Treatment Cheaper, Better for HER2-Positive Breast Cancer Patients

Shorter Herceptin Treatment Cheaper, Better for HER2-Positive Breast Cancer Patients
Taking Herceptin (trastuzumab) for nine weeks is just as effective in HER2-positive breast cancer patients as taking the same drug for 12 months — as is currently recommended. A British study now says the shorter treatment course also leads to fewer cardiac side effects and may save the country's National Health System (NHS) millions of pounds. The study, "Multi-arm Cost-Effectiveness Analysis (CEA) comparing different durations of adjuvant trastuzumab in early breast cancer, from the English NHS payer perspective," appeared in PLOS One. Nearly 25 percent of early stage breast cancers have activating mutations in the HER2 gene, a feature that makes them more aggressive. In patients with such cancers, adding the anti-HER2 antibody Herceptin to the post-surgery chemotherapy regimen increases survival rates and delays the recurrence of disease. But the drug is expensive and causes side effects, the most serious of which are potentially life-threatening heart problems. While drug manufacturer Roche recommends that women should receive Herceptin for a year after surgery in agreement with its clinical trials, studies have suggested that 9 to 10 weeks on Herceptin would be just as effective. To assess this, researchers at the University College London looked at eight studies conducted in Europe and in the United States. They performed a combined analysis of two of those studies, which followed patients for five years after they received Herceptin, and included 3,344 HER2-positive breast cancer patients. Of th
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