Herceptin provides hope to new breast cancer sufferers

According to new research, Herceptin, Genentech's breast cancer treatment has shown promise in treating the early stages of breast cancer.

Herceptin is already approved to treat the worst forms of breast cancer and the company said Monday it will discuss with federal regulators the possibility of prescribing the drug for more breast cancer patients.

Two large human trials with over 5,000 volunteers, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, were carried out over a five year period.

The drug, when given with chemotherapy, extended the life expectancy of women who have a genetic mutation that shows up in about 30 percent of breast cancer cases.

The tumours of patients with that particular genetic mutation tend to grow faster and recur more often than other types of breast cancer.

The tumours in women given Herceptin were 52 percent less likely to recur than patients who did not receive the drug.

Herceptin is a so-called targeted therapy because of its ability to attack diseased cells and leave healthy ones alone.

Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, NCI's director says the research is a major advance for many thousands of women with breast cancer, and the results are another example of a major turning point in the use of targeted therapies to eliminate suffering and death from cancer.

More details will be announced at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting next month.

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