12-months on Herceptin confirmed as the gold standard

A new report released at the renowned San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in the USA has confirmed that 12 months of Herceptin gives women with HER2-positive breast cancer the best chance of survival.

Clinical trials have been underway in New Zealand and elsewhere to test whether a 9-week programme of Herceptin would offer the same benefits as the longer programme.

BCAC chair, Libby Burgess, says the results from the SOLD (Synergism Or Long Duration) trial are long-awaited and show incontrovertibly that 12 months of Herceptin provides the optimum standard of care.

“We now have it confirmed beyond any doubt that the gold standard of care is Herceptin for 12 months.

“It’s fantastic for women with breast cancer and medical professionals to have this certainty and to know that a year on the medicine is needed for the very best results,” Ms Burgess says.

New Zealand patients have been among the more than 2,000 who have participated in the SOLD trial, which was sponsored by the Finnish Breast Cancer Group and New Zealand’s drug buying agency, PHARMAC.

Patients in the trial were randomly split into two groups, with one group receiving nine weeks of Herceptin along with chemotherapy and the other receiving the full 12 months of Herceptin plus chemotherapy.

The results showed that those receiving the shorter treatment were more likely to have their cancer return and the lead investigator, Prof Heikki Joensuu, concluded that one year of Herceptin therapy should remain the standard of care.

The study found there was a statistically improved disease-free survival (DFS) for the patients in the 12-month group.  For the patients in this group disease-free survival after five-years follow-up was 90.5% compared with 88% in the 9-week group.

Ms Burgess, who is at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, says these results back-up other similar studies such as PHARE and HERA which have clearly demonstrated the benefits of a 12-month programme of Herceptin.

“Herceptin has been a game-changer for women with HER2-positive breast cancer and it’s vital that it’s used over the optimum duration. 

“BCAC believes the case is now closed on the optimal duration of Herceptin.  Women with HER2-positive breast cancer should ensure that they get the full 12-month course when they discuss treatment options with their oncologist,” Ms Burgess says.

BCAC was instrumental in getting Herceptin funded for New Zealanders with HER2-positive breast cancer.  It was fully funded in 2008 when the then newly-elected National Government directed PHARMAC to fund the drug.

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