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Drug Perjeta Extends Lives of Breast Cancer Patients
- Updated: September 29, 2014
Findings from a new study show breast cancer patients who received the drug Perjeta in a clinical trial ultimately survived longer than those in the control group. According to researchers, Perjeta, which is manufactured by the Swiss drug maker Roche, has achieved an unprecedented success when it comes to extending lives of people with advanced stage breast cancer.
Participants of the study lived close to 16 months longer than those in the control group. Perjeta outperformed all other drugs used as an initial treatment for metastatic breast cancer specific to prolonging life. As stated by Dr. Sandra M. Swain, lead author of the study and doctor at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, nothing like the survival benefit offered by Perjeta has ever been seen.
At an annual meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology, Dr. Swain presented the study findings. Although Perjeta, with the generic name pertuzumab, had been proven to increase survival rate of people with advanced breast cancer by a statistically significant amount, the new study was able to reveal just how much thanks to patients being followed for a longer period.
As part of the study, Dr. Harold J. Burstein of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and Dr. Edith A. Perez with Florida’s Mayo Clinic, the results of the study are quite impressive since improvement with other drugs is typically only two months or so.
Perjeta was developed to block action of a protein called HER2, which is responsible for boosting growth of certain breast tumors. In approximately 20% of breast cancers with an abundance of HER2, Perjeta is used in conjunction with another Roche drug, Herceptin (trastuzumab).
Perjeta received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012 and at this time, it is already considered part of standard care in the US. However, based on the study findings, this drug could be used more intensely. At this time, only 50% of women eligible to be treated with Perjeta are actually being treated with the drug. As noted by Roche spokesperson, Edward Lang, Jr., for many countries, the challenge is cost.
Currently, Perjeta costs roughly $5,900 a month while Roche’s other drug Herceptin is approximately $5,300 per month. In comparison, there are many drugs used to treat cancer that cost well over $10,000 a month. In the first two quarters of 2014, sales of Perjeta was about $408 million worldwide with $250 coming specifically from the US.
The study involved 808 patients from all over the world with untreated HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. Of those, about 50% were given Perjeta and Herceptin, along with Docetaxel, a chemotherapy drug used to treat cancer. The remaining 50% of participants were given Herceptin and Doctaxel but in place of Perjeta, they received a placebo.
For those given Perjeta, average survival time was 56.5 months, equivalent to 4.5 years whereas those in the control group lived 40.8 months. That difference of 15.7 months is what researchers are impressed with. However, experts are still unable to identify the exact reason that Perjeta lengthens lives in people with advanced stage breast cancer.