A novel approach in the treatment of breast cancer is the new nine week course of Herceptin which also prevents the risk of heart problems.
Herceptin is a monoclonal antibody that attacks the HER-2 protein that is highly expressed in about 30% of the breast cancers.
The results of the combination therapy (Herceptin + anthracycline-based chemotherapy) were better when compared to chemo alone.
A study was conducted by Finland researchers to analyze the safety and efficiency of Herceptin in 1010 women who had breast cancer. The women included in the study received docetaxel or vinorelbine and then FEC (5-fluorouracil, epirubicin, cyclophosphamide).Those whose HER-2 protein were increased Herceptin was given for nine weeks or no Herceptin was given.
After 3 years the results were reported as 91% of patients who received docetaxel were free of cancer recurrence when compared to 86% patients who received vinorelbine.
89% of the patients who received Herceptin were free of cancer recurrence when compared to 78% who did not receive Herceptin.
The survival rate also was longer in patients who received Herceptin and no increase in heart problems.
Hence it was concluded that the nine week Herceptin therapy along with docetaxel diminishes recurrence of cancer and prevents risk of heart problems. But further research is still being done on one year Herceptin therapy to study the efficacy of the therapy.