Analysis confirms benefits of combining trastuzumab and chemotherapy

July 07, 2007

A recent meta-analysis of five major breast cancer trials has confirmed that combination treatment with the antibody trastuzumab and chemotherapy improves survival in women with operable HER-2 positive breast cancer.

At the ESMO Conference Lugano, Issa Dahabreh from the University of Athens reported the results of a meta-analysis of 5 trials involving more than 13,000 women whose breast cancer was amenable to surgery.

All the trials compared disease-free survival, overall survival and the risk of locoregional and distant recurrence of breast cancer in women given adjuvant chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy plus trastuzumab, after breast surgery.

Up to a quarter of all breast cancers express large amounts of the HER2 protein or carry multiple copies of the HER2 gene. Those cancers tend to be associated with aggressive disease, a higher likelihood of recurrence and a decreased response to treatment. Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody that directly targets part of the HER2 tyrosine kinase receptor.

The results showed that combining trastuzumab with chemotherapy results in a -34% reduction in mortality and a 38% increase in disease-free survival, Dahabreh said. Those survival benefits were accompanied by decreases in the risk of both locoregional and distant recurrences of the cancer.

"Taken together, these results confirm that the administration of trastuzumab in combination with chemotherapy should be the standard choice for the treatment of women with HER2 positive early stage disease, especially those with limited cardiovascular comorbidities", Dahabreh said.

This is the first meta-analysis of current published trials on the adjuvant use of trastuzumab. The results are of great clinical value since they indicate that treatment with trastuzumab results in major survival benefit in women with an aggressive disease subtype.

The level of effectiveness demonstrated by this analysis is largely unprecedented in the treatment of solid tumors, the authors say, and highlights the potential of implementing targeted agents with cytotoxic chemotherapy.
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About ESMO Conference Lugano (ECLU)

ECLU 2007 represents the new direction ESMO has given to the scientific and educational meeting previously known as the ESMO Summer Educational Conference (ESEC). It will be held every July under the auspices of the City of Lugano, hometown to the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).

Around 1000 young oncologists, senior oncologists and cancer healthcare professionals will attend sessions on the latest developments in multidisciplinary oncology which will cover progress in cancer research and promising new technologies. International cancer specialists will highlight progress on important topics such as pharmacogenomics, molecular diagnostics, molecular-targeted therapies, new frontiers in response evaluation, cancer prevention and state-of-the-art oncology at its finest. Each Conference will also include a session on a specific topic, which in 2007 is the important issue of cancer prevention.

The 6th ESMO Patient Seminar, 7 July 2007, will also take place during ECLU. The Patient Seminar provides patients, their families and caregivers the opportunity to interact with international and local oncologists and learn more about the most recent developments and options in cancer treatment.

More information about ECLU is available at http://www.esmo.org/activities/ecluconference/.

European Society for Medical Oncology

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