Cancer research rarely provides such an astonishing result. Perjeta, a drug made by the Swiss drug company Roche is used in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. This advanced form of cancer means that cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. After a study spanning several years, researchers said that on average, Perjeta can extend the lives of breast cancer patients by 15 months.
Yes, Perjeta, generically known as pertuzumab, is already on the market since 2012. But this is the first study showing more precisely how effective the drug is. Perjeta inhibits HER2, an active protein in some breast cancer types. By combining Perjeta with Herceptin in breast cancers where HER2 is predominant, patient’s lives can be extended dramatically when compared to previous treatments.
The research involved 808 untreated patients with metastatic breast cancer from around the world. Half of them received the trio Perjeta, Herceptin, Docetaxel (chemotherapy drug). The other half received a placebo instead of Perjeta, along with the two other drugs.
The study results astonished researchers. Patients treated with Perjeta had a median survival time of 56.6 months, 15.7 months longer than the ones who did not take the drug.
Lead author Dr. Sandra M. Swain, MedStar Washington Hospital Center, said “We’ve never seen anything like this before.” The trial results set new standards in cancer drug making. “It’s really unprecedented to have this survival benefit,” Swain added. Other researchers say they rarely see more than two months of improvements, Boston Globe notes.
Perjeta is already on the market, but only about half of the patients who could take it end up doing so. These exciting results will definitely increase Perjeta sales in the US. Perjeta costs $5,900 a month, but add that to the cost of Herceptin, $5,300 a month. The combination with Herceptin made the company sell Perjeta at a lower price than other cancer treatment drugs, Edward Lang Jr, spokesperson for Roches, said.
A regular cancer treatment cost even more $10,000 a month. The use of Perjeta is even lower in countries where price is an even greater issue compared to the US. However, Roche’s drug will soon become a standard in breast cancer treatment all over the world. So far, Roche made $408 million out of Perjeta sales. More than half comes from US sales.