In Study, Drug Delays Worsening of Breast Cancer, With Fewer Side Effects

English: Most common cancers in the United Sta...

“It’s less toxic than its comparator and also more effective”

A drug that delivers a powerful poison to tumors without some of the side effects of traditional treatments can delay the worsening of breast cancer and also appears to substantially prolong lives, according to results of a study presented here Saturday.

Besides representing an advance in treating breast cancer, the success in the clinical trial validates an idea that is now being pursued by numerous pharmaceutical companies to treat various types of cancer in a way that delivers drugs to cancerous cells while sparing healthy ones.

“We’ve envisioned a world where cancer treatment would kill the cancer and not hurt the patient,” Dr. Kimberly L. Blackwell, a professor of medicine at the Duke Cancer Institute and the lead investigator in the trial, said in an interview. “And this drug does that.”

The drug, known as T-DM1, was developed by Genentech, which sponsored the trial. The company, a unit of Roche, plans to file for approval later this year. That could mean the drug will reach the market next year.

T-DM1 and similar drugs under development consist of powerful toxins linked to proteins called antibodies. The antibodies latch onto cancer cells and deliver the toxic payload directly into those cells. Since the toxin is not active until it reaches the tumor, side effects are reduced.

Such treatments, known as antibody-drug conjugates, have been pursued for decades, but only now is success being achieved.

One such drug, Adcetris, was approved last year to treat two rare types of lymphoma. T-DM1 could be the first approved for a common cancer. Over all, about 25 such drugs are in clinical trials, according to Alain Beck, a French pharmaceutical researcher.

“I think it really represents the first broad demonstration of the potential of antibody-drug conjugates in cancer treatment,” said Dr. Louis M. Weiner, director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University. Dr. Weiner was not involved in the study but is scheduled to present a commentary on it after the results are formally presented Sunday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting here.

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via New York Times – 

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