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    New Treatments Target Advanced Breast Cancer

    Drug Combos Extend Time Before Cancer Gets Worse

    The Second Study: One-Two Punch With Pertuzumab, Herceptin

    In the second study, adding pertuzumab to a combination of Herceptin and chemotherapy extended the time before cancer got worse from just over a year to just over a year and a half.

    The study, dubbed Cleopatra, involved over 800 women with what’s called HER2-positive breast cancer.

    Both drugs target a protein called HER2 that is overproduced in certain breast cancers. The drugs work together in a complementary way, Perez says. She has received research funding from Genentech, which makes the drugs and funded the work.

    With the exception of diarrhea and a somewhat lower white blood cell count, women on pertuzumab didn't experience more side effects.

    Pertuzumab is now being tested as treatment for women with early-stage, HER2-positive breast cancer.

    "The challenge going forward will be how best to use the many HER2 therapies now in development," says William Gradishar, MD, director of breast medical oncology at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University in Chicago.

    On the basis of this study, a one-two punch with pertuzumab and Herceptin is a logical choice for women with untreated HER2-positive cancer that has spread, he writes in an editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine.

    Perez worries that cost will be an issue if insurers won't cover all the new treatments. Herceptin costs about $4,100 a month, Afinitor between $6,500 and $7,000. A price for pertuzumab has not been set, but it is likely to be in that range.

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