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Herceptin and Chemotherapy Benefit Breast Cancer Patients with Brain Metastases

 

Among women with HER2-positive breast cancer that has spread to the brain, treatment with Herceptin® (trastuzumab) and/or chemotherapy can prolong survival. These results were published in Clinical Cancer Research.   

Although important advances have been made in breast cancer treatment, the treatment of metastatic breast cancer (breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body) remains challenging. The brain is one area to which breast cancer may spread, and researchers continue to explore how best to manage patients with brain metastases.     

To assess the frequency and outcome of brain metastases in women with metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer, researchers conducted a study among 1,023 newly diagnosed patients. HER2-positive breast cancer refers to cancer that overexpresses (makes too much of) the HER2 protein. Treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer often includes a HER2-targeted therapy such as Herceptin.   

  • Brain metastases were more common in younger women, those with hormone receptor-negative breast cancer, and those with a greater amount of cancer. 
  • Among women who were free of brain metastases at the time of their initial diagnosis but later developed brain metastases, brain metastases were diagnosed a median of 13 months after initial diagnosis. 
  • After the diagnosis of brain metastases, treatment with Herceptin and chemotherapy each significantly improved overall survival.  

These results suggest that even after HER2-positive breast cancer spreads to the brain, standard breast cancer treatments can prolong survival. 

Reference: Brufsky AM, Mayer M, Rugo HS et al. Central nervous system metastases in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer: incidence, treatment, and survival in patients from registHER. Clinical Cancer Research. 2011; 17: 4834–43. 

 

Posted July 20, 2011