Posted on Jun 04, 2009, 9 a.m.
By gary clark
Scientists at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology reported that stomach cancer patients taking Herceptin with chemotherapy lived nearly three months longer than patients on chemotherapy alone. Other promising results in the treatment of breast cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma were also announced.
In a study sponsored by Roche, the manufacturer of Herceptin, a breast cancer drug that targets the Her2 gene, physicians have found that using Herceptin along with chemotherapy adds almost three months of life to stomach cancer patients. Specifically, those patients who received Herceptin and standard chemo lived a median of 13.8 months, compared to 11.1 months for those who were treated with chemo alone.
To conduct the study, the researchers screened 3,807 stomach cancer patients and found that one in five tested positive for the Her2 gene variant - the same protein found in high levels in approximately 20 percent of women with breast cancer. Of those, 594 were entered into a clinical trial and randomly assigned to receive Herceptin with a double combination chemotherapy regimen or chemotherapy alone. "The drug shrank tumors and boosted survival significantly beyond the one-year mark that has been a hurdle for patients with advanced gastrointestinal tumors," says Eric Van Cutsem, study leader and professor at the University of Leuven, Belgium. "We broke the barrier," he adds. The study findings were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's recent annual meeting.
In addition, other promising findings were presented, including an announcement that a new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors have shown promise against triple-negative breast cancer. This hard-to-treat form of the disease lacks receptors for estrogen, progesterone and Her2 and as a result, it cannot be treated with hormone therapy or Herceptin. Researchers reported that in a clinical trial of 116 women with this form of cancer, those who received both the inhibitor with chemotherapy lived a median of 9.2 months, compared to 5.7 months for those who receive just chemotherapy.
The scientists also reported that the remission of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients who received a cancer vaccine developed by Biovest International was extended to 44 months - 13 months longer than the control group. This is the first time Biovest has had success with the vaccine, which has been designed to train the body's own immune system to attack the tumor, rather than prevent cancer outright.
News Release: Promising results in stomach and breast cancer drugs www.nytimes.com May 31, 2009
News Release: Roche's Herceptin fights stomach cancer in those with gene www.bloomberg.com May 31, 2009