Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Drug Combo Extends Life With Breast Cancer

Women Live Longer With Tykerb-Herceptin Combination After Herceptin Alone Fails
WebMD Health News

Dec. 11, 2009 (San Antonio) -- For the first time, a drug treatment has been shown to extend the lives of women with metastatic breast cancer after Herceptin alone failed.

The treatment involved a one-two punch from Tykerb and Herceptin, both already used in the treatment of breast cancer.

In a study of nearly 300 women, those given the combo lived four-and-a-half months longer than those given Tykerb alone. All of the women in the study had metastatic disease that had continued to spread even after treatments that included Herceptin.

Fifty-six percent of the women were still alive a year after treatment began -- results unheard of in patients with advanced disease who fail Herceptin, Duke University's Kimberly Blackwell, MD, tells WebMD.

The findings were presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

How Herceptin and Tykerb Work

About 20% of breast cancer patients have HER2-positive cancers -- tumors that have too much of a type of protein called HER2, which promotes the growth of cancer cells. Herceptin blocks HER2 from breast cancer cells.

But metastatic breast cancer eventually becomes resistant to Herceptin. So researchers have searched for new drugs that target HER2.

Tykerb is such a drug. It zeroes in on two related proteins -- HER2 and EGFR -- that play a critical role in the growth and spread of cancer.

"It's sort of a double whammy, disabling the HER2 protein in two places instead of one," Blackwell says.

Tykerb-Herceptin Combo Extends Breast Cancer Patients' Lives

Blackwell and colleagues studied 295 women with metastatic breast cancer, meaning their cancer had spread to other organs.

All had been treated with Herceptin alone or in combination with various chemotherapy drugs but were still were getting worse.

Half the women then got Tykerb; the other half got the Tykerb-Herceptin combination.

Those who got the combination therapy were 26% less likely to die over the course of the study. They lived an average of about 14 months vs. 9.5 months for those who got Tykerb alone.

Adding Tykerb to Herceptin did not worsen the side effects. "As a clinician, I think it’s amazing there was no increase in side effects with the combination of drugs," Blackwell says.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow