The drug Kadcyla, a treatment option for HER-2 positive patients, has shown potential to greatly improve the quality of life for its users. Those living with secondary breast cancer not only have to face emotional and psychological trauma but also have to put up with a number of uncomfortable physical side effects related to their condition and its subsequent treatment.
Treatment with Kadcyla cannot only help prolong the lifespan of such individuals but also offer a better quality of life for these who get a chance to use it. When patients can keep the symptoms and side effects manageable, it allows them to lead a productive and fulfilling life, contribute optimally to the community, participate in the workforce and care for their family as well. Through two major clinical trials it was established that Kadcyla delivered superior results when compared to its other treatment counterparts.
The first of these trials, EMILIA established that Kadcyla improved the progression free survival with 9.6 months in comparison to 4.6 months for other treatments. The median overall survival rate also went up to 30.9 months form 25.1 months and had better results regarding the time to symptom progression. In addition, there were fewer side effects, less toxicity, and an improved quality of life for those who used the medication.
Results of the second trial, TH3RESA, also found Kadcyla to be superior in decidedly prolonging the progression free survival rate from 3.3 months to an extended 6.2 months. The incidence of diarrhoea, neutropenia and febrile neutropenia associated with the drug’s use was not as high as that with other treatments and as a result fewer patients discontinued the treatment due to adverse events.
The most significant side effect associated with use of Kadcyla was that women did not experience any hair loss; a typical outcome of other cancer related treatments. Chemotherapy often causes baldness, a difficult aspect of the treatment. The effect can leave many women feeling demoralised and impact their quality of life both at work and at home.
Another side effect that often results from using cancer treatment option is the occurrence of diarrhoea. For Kadcyla users, there was an absence of this side effect as well giving them the confidence boost they needed to lead a more normal life. In addition Kadcyla users were also observed to have no hand-foot syndrome, no increase in heart risk, lower incidence of nausea and vomiting, less fatigue and no nail changes.
The drug also allows patients to receive chemotherapy without any of its usual incapacitating side effects.
However, the drug is not for everyone as it is only for patients suffering from HER-2 positive cancer. This comes to about 15-20% of all breast cancer patients. But even for this number, the cost of Kadcyla, if remaining unsubsidised, will not be easily affordable. The drug company’s patient access demands $15,000 for the first three treatment which is a lot of money to come up with upfront. For those who try to afford the medication on their own, it could mean selling personal assets to fund the finances.
1) Submission to the Pharmaceutica l Benefits Advisory Committee Trastuzumab Emtansine (Kadcyla®): https://www.bcna.org.au/sites/default/files/bcna_submission_trastuzumab_emtansine_kadcylar.pdf