FDA Approves New Breast Cancer Drug

Published 02/22 2013 12:33PM

Updated 02/22 2013 12:35PM

The Food and Drug Administration approved a new "smart bomb" drug on Friday that can help women with one of the most hard-to-cure types of breast cancer.

The new drug added several months of life to women with a type of breast cancer called HER2-positive breast cancer, whose tumors had spread despite treatment. While it wasn't a cure, it did add some healthy months of life to patients whose outlook was otherwise hopeless.

The drug is called Kadcyla, and it works in an unusual way. It combines an older drug, Herceptin, with a highly toxic type of chemotherapy called DM1. The Herceptin hones in on the tumor cells, which absorb the package and are then destroyed by the DM1, which is too strong to deliver like standard chemotherapy. It's a member of a new class of drugs called antibody-drug conjugates or ADCs.

In a trial of 991 women with advanced HER2 breast cancer, those who got Kadcyla lived on average 5.8 months longer than those getting more standard chemotherapy, researchers reported last year in the New England Journal of Medicine. It meant about 2 years of life after diagnosis, compared to two years for those on standard therapy.

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