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Two drugs bring new hope for breast cancer patients

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Some women with very advanced breast cancer might have a new treatment option.

A combination of two drugs that more precisely target tumors significantly extended the lives of women who had stopped responding to other medicines, doctors reported Friday.

It was the first big test of combining Herceptin and Tykerb. In a study of 300 patients, women receiving both drugs lived almost five months longer than those given Tykerb alone.

Doctors hope for an even bigger benefit in women with less advanced disease.

The good results are in stark contrast to two other studies that found no survival advantage from Avastin, a drug whose approval for breast cancer patients was very controversial.

Two infusions of Avastin a month, as needed for this treatment, can run as much as $30,000 with fees for administering the drug. Its maker, Genentech, says the wholesale price it charges for the drug averages $7,700 a month.

Considering Avastin's potential side effects — blood clots in the lungs, poor wound healing, kidney problems — a survival benefit "would have made the cost of the drug less painful to take," said Dr. Jennifer Litton, a breast cancer specialist at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

She had no role in any of the studies, which were reported Friday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Two drugs bring new hope for breast cancer patients 12/11/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 11, 2009 11:00pm]

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