FACTFILE: New breast cancer drug Perjeta

Perjeta works by blocking signals inside cancer cells that would tell them to divide and grow Credit: Roche

A new breast cancer drug called Perjeta has been granted a licence to be used in Europe.

It is not yet available on the NHS, but its manufacturers are in talks with regulators.

Here we answer some of your questions about the drug.

  • Who is it for?

Perjeta is a new personalised treatment for what’s called HER2-positive breast cancer, which accounts for around a quarter of all breast cancers. It’s meant for patients whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body and is considered to be incurable.

Today, the drug’s manufacturer Roche has announced Perjeta has been granted a licence by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The EMA made the decision after a number of clinical trials, including a major study known as Cleopatra.

  • What did the clinical studies find?

More than 800 people took part in the trials worldwide. Patients at Manchester’s Christie Hospital, where 34 people have been trialling the drug, made up one of the biggest UK groups in Cleopatra.

The study found that patients who took Perjeta alongside Herceptin and chemotherapy lived on average 6.1 months longer without their cancer getting worse, compared to those taking Herceptin and chemotherapy alone.

  • How does Perjeta work?

Perjeta blocks signals inside cancer cells that, if left alone, would instruct the cell to divide and grow out of control.

It works alongside Herceptin and allows the body’s own antibodies to continue their attack on the tumour.

  • What happens next?

Perjeta’s manufacturer, Roche, is now in discussions with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) about making the drug available on the NHS. NICE is expected to announce its findings in November.

Roche says patients can access the drug before that by asking their doctor to apply to the Cancer Drugs Fund, a £200m fund set up by the Government to pay for new drugs before they are available on the NHS. A three-week dose of Perjeta currently costs £2,395.