Cancer drug trialled in Manchester licensed for women in early stages of disease

Mammogram Credit: PA images

A breast cancer drug that almost doubles the eradication of tumours and extends survival has been licensed for early stages of the disease.

Perjeta, which was trialled in Manchester is used in women with HER2-positive breast cancer prior to surgery. It's already licensed for those whose cancer has spread around the body.

It has now been granted a licence for women in the earliest stages of the disease, when therapies can have their biggest impact, but is not freely available on the NHS.

Perjeta (also known as pertuzumab) has not yet been fully appraised by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice). It is available privately, while those women with advanced cancer may be able to access it through the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund.

In clinical trials at the Christie, Perjeta almost doubled the number of women whose tumours were eradicated compared with current treatment.

Additional data showed that patients were 40% more likely to be disease-free after three years. According to the manufacturer Roche, the medicine has the potential to help more than 1,800 patients in the UK. About 15% of women with early-stage breast cancer have HER2 positive cancer.

Dr Andrew Wardley, oncologist at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester and one of the British doctors involved in the clinical trials, said: "Therapy for breast cancer has the greatest impact in the early stage, where it can prevent the cancer from returning or spreading and eradicate the cancer in some cases."

Perjeta works by targeting the HER2 protein, which is found on the surface of some cancer cells. Perjeta stops HER2 joining to other HER proteins so the cell does not receive messages telling it to grow. Perjeta is licensed for use in combination with the current treatment Herceptin (trastuzumab) and chemotherapy.