New Cancer Drug Targets Tumor Cells, Reduces Side Effects
June 4, 2012

New Cancer Drug Targets Tumor Cells, Reduces Side Effects

A clinical trial of an experimental new breast cancer treatment found that it extended the life expectancy of patients without the symptoms of the disease worsening, various media outlets reported on Sunday.

The drug, TDM-1, is manufactured by Roche, and according to Naomi Kresge and Robert Langreth of Bloomberg, it works by carrying chemotherapy directly into cancer cells while successfully avoiding healthy ones, resulting in fewer side effects than conventional treatments.

According to Reuters reporter Deena Beasley, the treatment combines Roche's antibody Herceptin (trastuzumab) and a cell-killing compound adapted from chemotherapy drugs and developed by ImmunoGen.

The result is what she refers to as an "armed antibody," and what USA Today's Liz Szabo describes as "a drug combination designed to act like a smart bomb, which delivers its payload directly to tumor cells while reducing collateral damage to the rest of the body."

Approximately 1,000 patients suffering from advanced or metastatic breast cancer, all of whom had previously received treatment from both a taxane chemotherapy drug and Herceptin, participated in the study, Beasley said. Those who took TDM-1 lived for a median of 9.6 months before their symptoms worsened, compared to just 6.4 months for those who received a combination of the drugs Tykerb and Xeloda.

Furthermore, after 24 months, 65.4% of the T-DM1 patients were alive, versus 47.5% of those who received the other treatment. The results of the research were presented by lead author and Duke University Professor Kimberly Blackwell Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

"The drug worked. It was significantly better than a very effective approved therapy," Blackwell said in a statement, according to Bloomberg. She added that the results were "good news for women" because it proved that T-DM1 can effectively treat breast cancer while reducing diarrhea, vomiting, and other side effects caused by Tykerb. "What we´re trying to do is deliver chemotherapy in a smarter way. We feel like we´re moving to the next generation."

"TDM-1 is really a magic bullet in that it is designed to use the power of Herceptin to seek out cancer cells and then liberates inside those cells a very powerful drug," Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center Director/Oncologist Dr. Louis Weiner, who was not involved in the study, added in separate comments made to Beasley.