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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Drug Combo Extends Life With Breast Cancer

Women Live Longer With Tykerb-Herceptin Combination After Herceptin Alone Fails

Tykerb-Herceptin Combo Extends Breast Cancer Patients' Lives continued...

Edith Perez, MD, a breast cancer specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., tells WebMD that the results of the study have been eagerly awaited.

"In the U.S., there's a tendency of doctors to take women off Herceptin once it fails to help, but this shows significant benefit to continuing with it and adding a second targeted agent," she says. Perez says the combo is now being tested in women with early-stage breast cancer, for whom they expect it to work even better.

The study was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Tykerb. Blackwell consults for GlaxoSmithKline and for Genentech, maker of Herceptin.

Avastin Fails to Improve Breast Cancer Patients' Survival

Also at the meeting, two large studies showed that adding the targeted drug Avastin to standard chemotherapy modestly delayed the time until advanced cancer got worse but had no overall effect in survival.

Given the high cost of Avastin and the risk of side effects such as blood clots in the lungs and kidney problems, should women be offered the treatment?

That's the $100,000 question, Perez says. She was not involved with the work.

"It's hard to justify giving the drug to all the women. But we would like to offer it to that one in four it might help. We have to wrestle with the issue," she says.

Researchers are now trying to find biomarkers that will help pinpoint which women will benefit from the drugs and which won't, Perez says.

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