HERCEPTIN treatment for women with HER2-positive early-stage breast cancer is just as effective when taken for 6 months in preventing relapse and death as a 12-month course, according to a study led by the University of Cambridge, and involving the University of Warwick, UK. The trial, which also found the shorter treatment duration can reduce side effects, could lead to a 6-month course becoming the standard in many women, potentially providing major benefits to patients and the health system alike.
Herceptin, which prevents cancer cells growing and dividing by attaching to HER2 receptors, has become the standard of care for women with HER2 early-stage breast cancer, with 12 months being the adopted course. The PERSEPHONE trial compared a 6-month treatment duration with 12 months in a cohort of over 4,000 women with this form of breast cancer.
The team found that 89.4% and 89.8% of patients in the 6-month and 12-month arms, respectively, were free of disease after 4 years. In addition, while only 4% receiving herceptin for 6 months stopped taking the drug early because of heart problems, this occurred in 8% of those given the treatment for 12 months. The findings could lead to a 6-month course of the drug becoming the standard, which could have a number of benefits.
Prof Janet Dunn, University of Warwick, commented: “There is still further research to be done; however, there is now the possibility that women will now avoid longer treatment and the subsequent unnecessary side effects without losing any benefit. It is also good news for the NHS as a shorter duration of medication should help save vital funds.”
The authors stress that women currently taking the medication should make no changes to their treatment course without first consulting their doctor. Additionally, further research to understand which particular patients could safely reduce the duration of their treatment is required. The team are now about to start an analysis of blood and tissue samples collected in the PERSEPHONE trial to check for biomarkers that help identify subgroups of patients in whom shorter treatment durations may be more appropriate.
James Coker, Reporter
For the source and further information about the study, click here.