July 18, 2011

Help for Advanced Breast Cancer

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- There may be new hope for patients with advanced breast cancer. Researchers have found the use of trastuzumab, chemotherapy and surgery significantly improves survival and the time central nervous system metastases is diagnosed among patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer.

About 10 to 16 percent of women with advanced breast cancer develop central nervous system metastases, which means the cancer spreads to the brain.

In this study, 377 of the 1,023 women newly-diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer had central nervous system metastases. These patients were younger and more likely to have hormone receptor-negative disease and higher disease burden compared to those whose cancer did not spread to the brain.

For those diagnosed with central nervous system metastases, treatment with trastuzumab, chemo, and surgery was each associated with an improvement in survival: trastuzumab, 17.5 months vs. no trastuzumab, 3.8 months; chemotherapy, 16.4 months vs. no chemotherapy, 3.7 months; and surgery, 20.3 months vs. no surgery, 11.3 months.

"We clearly now know that these women should get trastuzumab and potentially chemotherapy, even if cancer spreads to the brain," lead researcher Adam Brufsky, M.D., Ph.D., was quoted as saying. "Women with HER2-positive breast cancer have a reasonable chance of living a long time with their disease, and they should be given aggressive therapy where appropriate."

The researchers say they are surprised that chemotherapy/trastuzumab adds to the patients' survival. They had thought that brain metastases would be dominant no matter what therapy was used.

SOURCE: Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, July, 2011