Genentech's New Breast Cancer Drug Greatly Extends Survival Rates

Published: Sep 30, 2014

Genentech's New Breast Cancer Drug Greatly Extends Survival Rates

September 29, 2014

By Jessica Wilson, Breaking News Staff

Perjeta, a type of targeted immunotherapy developed by Genentech , when added to Herceptin and chemotherapy has been shown recently to extend the lives of patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer (MBC) by 15.7 months compared to treatment with only Herceptin and chemotherapy, the company said this week.

Genentech, a South San Francisco-based subsidiary of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, announced these results recently in press release after the completion of the company’s Phase III CLEOPATRA study.

According to the company, CLEOPATRA (CLinical Evaluation Of Pertuzumab And TRAstuzumab) was an international, Phase III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 808 patients. Regulators worldwide, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), approved Perjeta, also known as pertuzumab, in 2012 after Genentech announced interim results of the study.

At the time, a full OS analysis, or overall survival analysis, could not be completed because more than half the patients in the study were still alive. The new data will be submitted to these same regulatory bodies for inclusion in the prescribing information for Perjeta.

“Adding Perjeta to treatment with Herceptin and chemotherapy resulted in the longest survival observed to date in a clinical study of people with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer,” said Sandra Horning, chief medical officer and head of global product development of Genentech, in a statement. “The median survival of nearly five years for people who received the Perjeta regimen is 15.7 months longer than for people who received Herceptin and chemotherapy alone, a magnitude of improvement we rarely see in clinical trials in advanced cancer.”

The American Cancer Society describes pertuzumab as a monoclonal antibody “designed to seek out and lock onto a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which is found on certain cells in the body. By attaching to these HER2 proteins, pertuzumab blocks the growth signals they send” as well as attracting immune cells to help kill the cancer cells."

“The results, I think, are phenomenal,” lead researcher Sandra Swain from the Washington Hospital Center was quoted by Reuters as saying at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) annual congress in Madrid on Sunday. “The survival improvement of nearly 16 months ... is unprecedented among studies of metastatic breast cancer.”

Perjeta is set to become the treatment of choice by oncologists for HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer, which is exciting news for both patients and Roche. The company currently holds an important position in the breast cancer drug market following the success of Herceptin, which was first approved in 1998.

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