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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Breast Cancer Drug Eribulin Extends Survival

Study Shows Drug for Advanced Breast Cancer Extends Life 2.5 Months Longer Than Current Treatments

Comparing Breast Cancer Treatments continued...

The researchers wanted to look primarily at overall survival between the two groups. The 2.5-month difference with eribulin was significant, they found.

They also found that nearly 54% of the eribulin group and 43% of the other group survived a year.

When they looked at progression free survival -- those women who survived but also did not have cancer progression -- they found the median was 3.7 months for those on eribulin and 2.2 months for those on other treatments.

Serious adverse events occurred in 25% of the eribulin patients and 26% of those on other treatments. Five percent of the women on eribulin developed febrile neutropenia, a potentially life-threatening problem of low white blood cells counts, fever, and infections, compared to 2% of the other group.

Side effects of weakness and fatigue were the most commonly reported in both groups, with 52% of those on eribulin and 40% of those in other groups reporting these symptoms. Tingling, prickling, and numbness of the fingers and toes (peripheral neuropathy) was the most common reason for women to drop out of the eribulin group, with 24 patients doing so.

The drug, derived from sea sponges, works by targeting the scaffolding within a cell, Twelves tells WebMD. "When a cell divides, the scaffolding helps it. What the eribulin does is interfere with the construction of the scaffolding and stops the cancer cell from dividing."

Finding a Place in Cancer Treatment

"It's very well tolerated," says Joanne Mortimer, MD, director of the Women’s Cancers Program at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif., who has used the drug in about a dozen of her patients. She has no ties to Eisai Inc.

She agrees with Twelves that the new drug will become the new standard for women whose previous breast cancer treatments have not worked.

"Yes, people are fatigued, but the fatigue doesn't seem to be as bad as some chemotherapy treatments we use," she says. "There is hair loss but no one [of her patients so far] has required a wig."

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