Breast drug can work in half the usual time
WOMEN with an aggressive breast cancer can be treated in half the time using existing drugs – slashing the risk of side-effects such as heart damage, a study has found.
Herceptin is prescribed to one in five women to treat early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer. But the drug can also attack heart cells, leading to heart failure and fluid in the lungs.
Despite the risk, the NHS says women should take it every three weeks for a year or until the cancer returns.
In a comparative study of 4,089 women, led by the University of Cambridge, 89.8 per cent of those taking the drug for a year were free of breast cancer after four years. However, the results show 89.4 per cent were cancer-free four years later after taking it for just six months – and their risk of heart complications halved.
Professor Charles Swanton, of the charity Cancer Research UK, said: ‘This is a critically important study.
‘The exciting early key findings show that six months of Herceptin might be as effective as 12 months, and it may also be safer and with fewer side-effects.’