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AstraZeneca announces ‘groundbreaking’ results in new breast cancer drug trial

72% of trial patients administered Enherthu showed no progression in their cancer after 12 months, compared to 34.1% of those treated with the current standard of care medication

A radiologist uses a magnifying glass to check mammograms for breast cancer in Los Angeles, on May 6, 2010. (AP Photo/ Damian Dovarganes, File)
A radiologist uses a magnifying glass to check mammograms for breast cancer in Los Angeles, on May 6, 2010. (AP Photo/ Damian Dovarganes, File)

British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca announced Sunday “groundbreaking” results in a trial of a new breast cancer drug which they say has been proven to reduce the risk of death or disease progression by 72 percent, compared to existing treatments.

The drug company said the results of its trial of Enhertu medication in treating the currently incurable HER-2-positive breast cancer showed “a strong trend towards improved overall survival.”

AstraZeneca said Enherthu, when coupled with chemotherapy, was shown to be twice as effective in controlling the disease as the similarly intravenous antibody drug TDM1, the current standard of care medication.

Three-quarters of the 500 trial patients from around the globe who had been administered Enherthu showed no progression in their cancer after 12 months, compared to 34.1% of those treated with TDM1. Additionally, progression-free survival improved from 7.2 months to 25.1 months.

In total, 94.1% of Enhertu patients survived 12 months of treatment, compared to 85.9% of TDM1 patients.

Susan Galbraith, executive vice president of Oncology R&D at AstraZeneca, called the results “groundbreaking.”

“These unprecedented data represent a potential paradigm shift in the treatment of HER-2-positive metastatic breast cancer, and illustrate the potential for Enhertu to transform more patient lives in earlier treatment settings,” she said, announcing the findings at the 2021 European Society of Medical Oncology conference.

Vials of antibody breast cancer medication Enhertu produced by drug manufacturer AstraZeneca. (AstraZeneca)

Enhertu was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2019 for inoperable or metastatic HER-2-positive breast cancer if the patient did not respond to the standard treatment and at least two other combination options.

“With the remarkable results of this study, Enhertu might become the new standard of care treatment for patients with HER-2-positive metastatic breast cancer following standard chemotherapy,” Dr. Sunil Verma, vice president and global clinical head of breast cancer research at AstraZeneca, told ABC News following the company’s announcement.

According to US nonprofit Breastcancer.org, about one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, though the overall death rate has declined over the years, mainly due to treatment advances and earlier detection through screening.

In 2021, some 250,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the US and about 40,000 women in the US are expected to die from the disease.

Additionally, there are some 360,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed and 92,000 deaths each year in Europe. In Israel, around 4,500 women are diagnosed each year, and 900 die.

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