Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, is seeking to educate patients about a new wave of alternative drugs, known as biosimilars, that will soon hit the market to treat HER2-positive breast cancer.
“The introduction of biosimilars is an important step in increasing options for treating HER2-positive breast cancers, which account for about 25 percent of all breast cancers. As patient advocates, we are working to ensure that patients are educated about biosimilars and can feel comforted that they are F.D.A. approved and just as safe and effective as the original biologic drug,” said Paula Schneider, CEO of Susan G. Komen.
Biosimilars are drugs that are “highly similar” to an existing biologic drug, which are at the forefront of the latest targeted therapies. Biologics are powerful and complex drugs made from biological products like antibodies or proteins and can come from all sorts of living sources – animals, plants and even bacteria. While biologics, like vaccines and insulin, have been around for many years, the number of these drugs has vastly increased since the 1990s and are now making it possible to treat some illnesses more effectively.
The most commonly-prescribed biologic to treat HER2-positive breast cancer is trastuzumab, also known by its brand name Herceptin. Developed in the 1990s, Herceptin attaches to the HER2 protein on the surface of the cancer cell which slows or stops the cancer cell from growing. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several biosimilars for trastuzumab, which will likely become available soon. Here are the four things patients need to know about biosimilars: