It was previously reported by the Finnish researchers that patients who received infusions of trastuzumab (Herceptin) were less likely to get recurrences in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr. Heikki Joensuu, corresponding author and a physician at Helsinki University Central Hospital said that the breast cancer recurrence reduced by 42% during the first 3 years of follow-up among women treated with docetaxel when compared to those who received vinorelbine.
But on the other hand it was found that docetaxel was associated with more adverse effects such as allergic reactions, swelling and fever.
Joensuu and his colleagues conducted a study in more than a thousand women with breast cancer.
They gave them three cycles of either docetaxel or vinorelbine, followed by three cycles of other cancer drugs.
Then, a subgroup of 232 women was identified whose tumors had an amplified HER2/neu gene. This gene is known to be associated with cancers that grow and spread aggressively.
They were also assigned either to receive nine weeks of infusions of Herceptin or a placebo. By doing this the researchers were able to identify the best regime for recurrence-free survival.
The result of the study was that patients who received Herceptin had 58 % fewer cancer recurrences during the three-year follow-up than those who didn't get the drug. Previous studies also show that adjuvant trastuzumab [Herceptin] if taken for a course of one year reduces the rate of breast cancer recurrence by 50 % in women having HER2-positive breast cancer.
But it is not clearly understood about the optimal duration of the drug usage. Dr. Mark Pegram, director of the women's cancer program at the Jonsson Cancer Center at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA said that if it is the short nine week regime that turns out to be ideal then it is great news. But still this question remains to be confirmed.