A combination therapy of low-dose chemotherapy with paclitaxel and the targeted drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) showed promising results in women with early stage HER2-positive breast cancer, according to researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Massachusetts. Women who received the treatment were highly unlikely to see their cancer return.
406 women whose tumors were smaller than three centimeters and had not spread to their lymph nodes were part of the phase II clinical trial. These women were treated with the combination therapy for 12 weeks, followed by 9 months of Herceptin alone.
Senior author of the study, Eric Winer, said, "Women with small, HER-2 positive, node-negative breast tumors have a low, but still significant, risk of recurrence of their disease. This study demonstrates that a combination of lower-intensity chemotherapy and trastuzumab, which is associated with fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy regimens, is an appealing standard of care for this group of patients."
The researchers said, "Three years after completing the combination therapy, 98.7 percent of the participants were alive and free of invasive breast cancer."
However, Charles Shapiro, co-director of Dubin Breast Center, The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said, "Three years of follow-up is short, and time will tell if there are late recurrences."
The study appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.