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    Sea Sponge Drug May Fight Breast Cancer

    Study Shows Eribulin Increases Survival for Patients Who Have Already Undergone Chemo

    Breast Cancer Prognosis continued...

    Women on eribulin were 19% less likely to die, the study shows. Their cancer also stayed in check slightly longer: 3.7 months vs. 2.2 months for women on standard treatment. Tumors shrank by 30% or more in 12.2% of women on eribulin vs. 4.7% of women in the other group.

    Surprisingly, among women whose tumors did shrink, the duration of response was longer for women in the standard therapy group: 6.7 months vs. 4.1 months in the eribulin group.

    Twelves cautions against putting too much emphasis on that finding, given that there were only about 10 women in the standard treatment group.

    Side Effects of Eribulin

    About 4% of women taking eribulin developed a potentially life-threatening condition called febrile neutropenia marked by infection, fever, and low white blood cell count. That was about three times the rate of women in the other group.

    But overall, the rate of serious side effects was similar in both groups, affecting about one in four women.

    The most frequent side effects with eribulin were fatigue, weakness, low white blood cell count, hair loss, and nausea, Twelves says. "The key thing is that only 4.8% of women actually had to stop treatment [due to side effects].

    Eric Winer, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, tells WebMD that women need to discuss the risks and benefits of eribulin with their doctors.

    "There aren't many drugs that show a survival advantage in this setting," says Winer, who moderated a news briefing on the findings.

    "I don't know that there are going to be many more chemotherapy agents approved for women with breast cancer," he says, referring to the fact that most of the newer breast cancer drugs like Herceptin and Tykerb target specific molecular defects that fuel different types of tumors.

    "That said, this may be one of the last, and potentially provide women with an additional option and maybe an option to be used in combination with targeted therapies in the future," Winer says.

    The drug recently received a priority review for approval by the FDA. No price has been set, according to a company spokesperson.

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