Oct 30, 2014 7:28 PM

Recently approved use for drug helps in the fight against breast cancer


CONCORD - It's estimated one in eight women in America will develop invasive breast cancer at some point during their lifetime.

In the fight against disease, Medical Director of the Payson Center for Cancer Care at Concord Hospital Dr. Charles Catcher says he's finding success in biological treatments called monoclonal antibodies.

"These don't kill the cancer cells by fighting the DNA. These adhere to the cells, so the cells starve and die," said Dr. Catcher.

One of these drugs is Herceptin. When combined with chemotherapy the risk of relapse is greatly reduced.

Dr. Catcher said, "There's data that previously showed if you give an individual with breast cancer chemotherapy with Herceptin, you reduce their risk of relapse by about 52%."

Herceptin has been around for more than a decade, but its offshoot Perjeta is much newer. FDA approved last year for treatment of stage one and two breast cancer - meaning it hasn't spread beyond the lymph nodes.

Dr. Catcher says the combo of three treatments, Prejeta, Herceptin and Chemo can actually shrink the tumor before surgery. He said, "You can get a very nice response. The tumors can significantly shrink before surgery. There are times when you go to do the surgery and there's no tumor that's left in the breast. It's pretty significant."

For advance stage breast cancer, the makers of Perjeta announced last month that a phase-III study shows adding Perjeta to Herceptin and Chemotherapy extended patients' lives by nearly 16 months.

The survival rate for breast cancer is one of the highest among cancers with more than 89% surviving five years or more after being diagnosed. Early detection is crucial.

Dr. Catcher said, "There's no doubt that there are big strides we are making in this disease. We still can't cure stage four breast cancer. What we have to do is prevent it from getting to stage four, and I think that's awareness."

Dr. Catcher said the old standards of regular mammograms and self examination are still some of the best tools in early detection of the disease.


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