Home NEWS Health For Women With Early Breast Cancer, Herceptin Treatment Can Be Much Shorter

For Women With Early Breast Cancer, Herceptin Treatment Can Be Much Shorter

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But she added, “I’d like to see the data, and see it peer-reviewed, before I make a big practice change.”

In the meantime, the results should reassure women who in the past had to quit Herceptin after only six months because of side effects, Dr. Litton said.

She had a patient like that whom she had worried about. “Now I don’t feel bad,” Dr. Litton said.

Dr. Earl’s study, called the Persephone trial, included 4,089 women in Britain who were picked at random to take the drug for six or 12 months, along with standard chemotherapy. The women were 23 to 82 years old, with a median age of 56. They were followed for a median of more than five years.

After four years, the disease-free survival rate was 89.4 percent in those treated for six months, and 89.8 percent in the 12-month group.

Disease-free survival means they had no signs of breast cancer, and the lack of difference between the two groups suggests that their overall survival should be equal as well, Dr. Johnson said, though longer follow-up would be needed to be sure.

Dr. Earl said they would be followed for 10 years.

Toxicity can build up over time, and with the shorter course, half as many women had to quit treatment early because of heart problems: 4 percent in the six-month group, versus 8 percent in the 12-month group.

Earlier studies that proved Herceptin’s effectiveness treated patients for a year, a somewhat arbitrary duration, but one that became the standard of care because there was data to support it.

To change that standard, researchers had to produce evidence that it could be safely done. Dr. Earl’s study is the first step in that direction.

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