T-DM1, a cancer drug, has emerged a game changer in breast cancer treatment. Last week, doctors in the United States, pronounced T-DM1, a drug to watch in preventing fatalities among women with very advanced breast cancer.
If this drug sails through further scrutiny, it will be available in one year and rubbish the five-year survival rate often handed to breast cancer patients.
There are not too many eggs in the basket for most patients with advanced breast cancer. Besides, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and lately Herceptin – a drug, the choice of treatment is often determined by the patient’s response and the presence of other health factors.
Ironically, T-DM1, is an offshoot of Herceptin, the first breast cancer gene therapy and chemotherapy. Researchers combined the two to deliver a deadly blow on breast tumours. When introduced to patients, T-DM1, also called a ‘smart bomb’ by scientists does not do a lot of damage to other vital organs and healthy cells like chemotherapy. It guns straight for the cancer cells, and binds steadfastly to the cells until they are destroyed.
Some 991 women with late stage breast cancer were involved in the study. The cancer was still spreading despite the fact that the women were receiving chemotherapy and Herceptin. Some of the women were given T-DM1 infusions while another group got Xeloda infusions and daily Tykerb pills.
After two years, it was observed that 65 per cent of the women who got T-DM1, are still alive compared to 47 per cent in the second group. While some of the women who received T-DM1 showed signs of liver damage and blood clot factors, an overwhelming majority did not have some severe side effects associated with chemotherapy.
“People don’t lose their hair, they don’t throw up. They don’t need nausea medicines, (and) transfusions. The absolute difference is greater than one year in how long these people live. This is a major step forward,’’ declared Kimberly Blackwell, study leader and researcher with Duke University, Chicago.