London, Sep 26 (UNI) Treatment with the drug Herceptin increases the chances of survival in women with advanced breast cancer, even after a relapse, a study revealed.
Those who continue with treatment are three times more likely to survive two years later compared to those who do not.
Three out of four women on continuous Herceptin treatment were still alive after two years.
British experts said the study, released on Monday at the European Cancer Congress, Barcelona could have important implications for women with breast cancer.
Specialists believe the drug is the most important development in breast cancer treatment for 25 years.
The Hermine trial, an observational study involving 340 women with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer showed an average survival rate of 27.8 months for those who continued to take the drug, compared to 16.8 months for patients who gave it up.
Dr Murray Brunt, clinical oncologist at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust, said: "This data is very welcome and provides evidence supporting the continuation of Herceptin therapy beyond disease progression for women with this particularly aggressive form of breast cancer.'' ''It appears that maintaining Herceptin therapy alongside chemotherapy to provide continuous suppression of HER2 may enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy, and help keep the cancer under control for longer.'' Consultant breast surgeon Hugh Bishop, president of the Association of Breast Surgery, said, ''It seems women could keep taking Herceptin, if they don't experience any heart side effects, throughout progression because it stops the disease accelerating.
We've never had drugs like this before.'' Herceptin works by binding to the part of the tumour essential for growth, preventing cell division which causes the tumour to stop growing or even shrink.