Patients suffering from HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer can now look for hope when treated with the drug Perjeta (pertuzumab). The new drug is recommended for use in conjunction with trastuzumab and docetaxel for addressing this condition. Those patients who have not received any anti HER2 therapy or chemotherapy can benefit from using Perjeta as instructed.
An international trial known as CLEOPATRA has shown the when pertuzumab is used with trastuzumab and docetaxel the results demonstrate considerable increase in the survival rate of patients. Since HER-2 is a more aggressive form of cancer and not as responsive to hormone treatment as other forms of cancer, its effective treatment options are fairly limited. Using Perjeta as recommended will greatly enhance treatment options for such individuals whose numbers can be around 15 to 20 percent of all breast cancer patients.
Clinical trials have also revealed that women with HER-2 positive cancer who received Perjeta in the early stages of the cancer responded well to the treatment by having fewer tumours than others who were getting older drug combinations. The drug is hoped to deliver better results when used at an earlier stage of the disease that is after the diagnosis and prior to surgery to extract the tumour.
Using Perjeta as a pre surgical option is expected to help with shrinking the tumours so that it may become easier to remove them or else phase out the need for surgery overall. The drug is also recommended for patients whose cancer is of a more aggressive from. Typically these patients have tumours that overproduce a protein called HER-2 that is responsible for quickly growing and multiplying cancer cells.
However, the drug has not yet been subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule in Australia. This means that it is fairly expensive to acquire Perjeta without any rebate and patients who wish to include it in their treatment therapy will need to pay hefty amounts for the medication.
Patients with secondary breast cancer have reported spending huge amounts for their treatment quoting figures of up to $30,000 out of their own pockets.
Not making Perjeta (petruzumab) subsidised for the public means that many of the eligible patients will not be able to afford the drug at all and will have to forego a promising treatment. For those who are willing to pay for the drug will still need to spend up to $12,864 to access it.
As is, living with secondary cancer puts patients and their families under huge trauma. And having to decide to pay out of pocket expenses for treatment with money that is also needed elsewhere only heightens the stress. With government contribution to acquiring the medication some of the pressure can be relieved from those suffering from the condition.
Pertuzumab is administered as a slow intravenous infusion given over one hour every three weeks. Occasionally hypersensitivity reactions have been observed so the drug should only be given when monitored by a health professional. Perjeta is not for everyone as only those with HER-2 positive tumour are eligible to receive it and even among these only those patients who have not previously received any other anti HER-2 therapy are specifically indicated.
1) Breast Cancer Network Australia’s Submission to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee Pertuzumab (Perjeta): https://www.bcna.org.au/sites/default/files/bcna_submission_pertuzumab_perjetar.pdf
2) FDA: Roche drug Perjeta works in early-stage breast cancer: http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/fda-roche-drug-perjeta-works-in-early-stage-breast-cancer/story-fneuz9ev-1226716473498
3) New Drugs Pertuzumab: http://www.australianprescriber.com/online-first/6/pertuzumab-for-breast-cancer