Stamford doctors help test experimental cancer drug
Updated 8:42 pm, Thursday, June 14, 2012
A Stamford Hospital patient is among hundreds of women nationwide hoping to live longer with aggressive breast cancer due to an experimental drug administered in a clinical trial.
The patient, who has advanced HER-2 breast cancer, has received intravenous doses of the drug T-DM1 every three weeks for the nine months, Lo said.
Favorable results of the clinical trial, which included more than 900 women living with HER-2, were announced in Chicago Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
"She's doing great," Lo said of the Stamford patient. "She has very, very few side effects, maybe a little achiness, and no nausea, and no significant fatigue. But it's pretty incredible."
Calls to the patient at a number provided by the hospital were not returned.
Unlike conventional chemotherapy regimens that combine drugs and affect cancerous and healthy cells similarly, T-DM1, developed by Genentech, is based on what researchers call the antibody conjugate approach, Lo said.
Therapy in the study paired a potent chemotherapy agent with a second anti-cancer drug, Herceptin, which includes an antibody that locks onto the HER-2 protein produced by the cancer.
In the study, those treated with the drug saw their disease's progress halt for almost 10 months when compared to a group of patients, who were treated with a different pair of chemotherapy drugs, Tykerb and Xeloda, and whose health stayed level for more than six months, according to the trial findings.
Herceptin ensures the chemotherapy's cancer-killing effect on cancer cells is enhanced while healthy tissue is preserved, diminishing or eliminating debilitating chemotherapy side effects, including low blood cell counts, vomiting, and nausea, Lo said. The results offer promise of extending the lives of patients with incurable cancers while also limiting the collateral damage, he said.
"T-DM1 is basically an antibody attached to a chemotherapy drug which makes it the ultimate smart bomb," Lo said. "This is basically a new big bullet in our belt. Before, we used to give similar types of chemo and it was very severe and caused a lot of side effects."
San Francisco-based Genentech plans to file an application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later this year for approval of the drug for treating late stage HER-2 specific breast cancer, Genentech spokeswoman Krysta Pellegrino said.
Genentech is now developing dozens of cancer drugs based on the same principle of using antibodies to route harsh chemotherapy toxins at diseased cells only, Pellegrino said.
Eight other drugs that have reached human trials are tailored to treat some forms of blood cancer as well as prostate, lung and ovarian cancers, she said.
"We consider this to be a platform that takes a targeted medicine, in this case Herceptin, and links it to a potent chemotherapy in a stable way," Pellegrino said. "This concept of antibody conjugates as a platform we consider very promising."
The FDA has already approved a similar drug, Adcetris, for treatment of two rare types of lymphoma.
Lo said he foresees the development and approval of future drugs based on the concept to treat all kinds of cancers, resulting in longer life for patients with advanced cancers.
"There will always be a role for chemotherapy and it is still the backbone of a lot of our treatments," he said. "This gives us extra time for a patient to do well before we might have to go to other drugs which is very exciting. I think it is going to help a lot of patients."
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