The new breast cancer drug Kadcyla – also called T-DM1, is giving women whom no longer respond to Herceptin and chemotherapy another chance at the fight. It has been announced that this new treatment has been launched in the UK. Kadcyla had been approved by the FDA last year in the US to stop the spreading of the disease for those with late-stage breast cancer.
This new drug stops the spread of breast cancer cells by penetrating and killing them from within. Patients who have failed conventional treatments and have the defective Her2 gene will be eligible to receive the treatment. This is the fourth approved drug that bull’s eyes the HER2 protein.
Besides these two other conventionally used drugs in the UK, Lapatinib (Tyverb) and Capecitabine (type of chemotherapy), Kadcyla looks very promising. Tykerb and Xeloda are drugs used in the US, and test results have shown Kadcyla to the extend life of patients by up to six months compared to those standard treatments. Fewer side-effects were also a benefit, with less women having diarrhea or vomiting.
This novel treatment works so precisely that a normally toxic form of chemotherapy can be used along with the drug. Kadcyla is an antibody-drug conjugate meaning, it links Herceptin and the powers of chemotherapy together. This new drug is given intravenously once every three weeks, and prevents the growth signals that allow breast cancer cells to spread just before chemotherapy is administered.
So far, the NHS (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) has not evaluated the drug for use. However, it may be available for private use. Doctors can apply through the NHS for specific patients.
Kadcyla can cause some side effects. 14.5 percent of women were found with a low platelet and higher liver enzyme levels in 8.5 percent of patients were found. One clinical study in the US noticed side effects in women such as joint pain, muscle pain, headaches and nausea.
“Kadcyla has been shown to extend life by up to six months” says Dr Caitlin Palframan, UK’s Breakthrough Breast Cancer senior policy manager. Palframan says that this new treatment will give women a better quality of life during their final months which may make a huge difference for patients and their families. She goes on to say that having proper treatment developed and made available is essential for women in the UK.
About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop some form of invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. Palframan says “A thousand women die from metastatic, or secondary, breast cancer every month in the UK.” Medical News Today has reported that in almost 1 in every 5 types of breast cancers has higher levels of HER2 protein.
About 48,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Britain every year. In 2013, there were more than 2.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the US. This new treatment, although very beneficial for stopping cancer from spreading to other organs, has been known to have some complications involving the heart. The manufacturer’s website for the drug states that even those who do not currently have heart problems, may suffer from reduced heart function. It may cause congestive heart failure in those with a history of heart complications.
By Katie Sevigny