PITTSBURGH, June 16, 1998 — The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) is participating in a multicenter, open-label study of Herceptin, an investigational drug used to fight breast cancer cells with an excess of HER2 receptors. About 30 percent of metastatic breast cancers are characterized by an excess of the HER2 receptor, which triggers a more aggressive growth of the cancer cells than cancers without HER2.
"The primary objective of this research study is to provide access to Herceptin to patients with an excess of HER2 metastatic breast cancer who have progressive disease and who already have undergone two chemotherapy regimens. The study also characterizes the safety of Herceptin alone or in combination with chemotherapy or hormonal treatment," said Adam Brufsky, M.D., principal investigator and assistant professor of medicine.
This spring, at the meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, researchers reported that Herceptin may prove beneficial if given to women early in the course of disease, and has virtually no side effects beyond chills and transient fever, compared to those typical of chemotherapy, which include hair loss, vomiting and nausea.
Herceptin, a monoclonal antibody, is just one of a group of drugs designed to attack specific cancer cells. Herceptin targets cancer cells that produce HER2 or HER2/neu by binding to the HER2 receptor and is thought to block the receptor site -- preventing tumor growth.
Results of using Herceptin have shown that, in some patients, tumors may grow more slowly than they would without treatment with Herceptin, and in some cases, the tumors decrease in size.
Breast cancer is the most common malignancy among women, with one in nine experiencing a chance of developing breast cancer during their lives. In the United States alone, there are approximately 185,000 new cases of breast cancer each year, and despite advances in early detection and surgical and adjuvant (designed to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence) therapy, nearly 50,000 women will develop metastatic disease each year.
For additional information about this study, call UPCI’s Cancer Information and Referral Service at 1-800-237-4PCI (4724). For more information, please visit the UPMC Cancer Centers website.