Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the US only after lung cancer. Based on a report by the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer-related deaths were more than 39,000 in 2013. About 6,000 to 8,000 deaths per year are attributed to the HER-2 form of the disease.
Perjeta (pertuzumab) Life Changing For Breast Cancer Patients
Roche’s Perjeta (pertuzumab) is the first ever drug that can be used in the pre-surgical stage in women with HER2 positive breast cancer. In its recent approval, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of Perjeta in women in early stages HER2 positive breast cancer who have the risk of cancer being spread to other parts of the body. Physicians are optimistic that Perjeta would facilitate in the shrinkage of the tumor, thereby making their surgical removal easier. In addition, treatment with Perjeta would ensure that women do not lose their breasts due to full mastectomy.
Perjeta has to be used in combination with Herceptin (another HER2 breast cancer drug by Roche). Perjeta and Herceptin are aimed at different regions of the HER2 receptor, so the combination can impact HER2-positive cancer more aggressively.
“By making effective therapies available to high-risk patients in the earliest disease setting, we may delay or prevent cancer recurrences,” said FDA’s Dr. Richard Pazdur, director of the division of cancer products.
The FDA approval of Perjeta in the pre-surgical phase was an accelerated drug approval based on a study that recorded improved benefits in patients who received Perjeta as the initial treatment as compared to patients who received older drug combinations; patients who received Perjeta were cancer-free for 12 weeks. This study involved 417 women randomized to receive one of the two following treatments: Perjeta + Herceptin + standard chemotherapy; or Herceptin + standard chemotherapy. In the Perjeta group, 39% of women experienced undetectable levels of cancer, while 21% of women remained with undetectable levels in the other group. Accelerated drug approval is considered for drugs that exhibit path breaking benefits in life-threatening diseases.
However, approval is conditional; Roche needs to conduct larger follow-up study to evaluate the survival benefits and quality of life. Therefore, Roche has begun a study, which will conclude in 2016.
Physicians are already prescribing Perjeta to early breast cancer patients but are looking forward to the results of the long-term study.
“This does not yet prove to us that using the antibody in this setting will result in more cures. That is still a hypothesis,” said Dr Paula Klein, who directs the breast cancer program at Continuum Cancer Centers of New York.
The Cost Of Perjeta For HER2 positive Breast Cancer Patients
However, the cost of Perjeta is high. It would cost $5,900 a month for the typical woman, Roche said. Herceptin costs $4,500 a month. The combination therapy with Perjeta and Herceptin over a typical 18-month course would cost $187,000.
Roche says that it has programs to ensure that patients who cannot afford these medicines will receive help.
“The rising cost of medical care–and cancer care in particular–is not sustainable and must be addressed by the medical community,” ASCO President Michael P. Link said during his speech at the annual meeting.
How To Pay For Her2 Positive Breast Cancer Treatment
Women who have her2 positive breast cancer and are wanting to use perjeta as part of their treatment course can find it difficult to cover out of pocket due to the high financial burden it can cause in households.
There are financial assistance programs for breast cancer patients in the United States that can provide small and short term assistance. These programs can help you cover the initial cost of treatment while you undergo medical care and find other ways of paying for your treatment in the future.
Similarly, government programs such as Medicare can be helpful resources to help offset the overall cost to a much more manageable cost.
Individuals who require larger amounts of financial assistance can often find great benefits to setting up a fundraiser online to seek for support from loved ones including work colleagues, friends and extended family networks.
For a free option, try PeoplePledge, which offers online fundraising pages free to create and run. This means individuals can seek financial assistance without any upfront cost or long term costs. A fundraising page can be setup immediately online and you could be receiving support from friends and family without minutes.
Perjeta, first pre-surgical breast cancer drug, approved by FDA: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/30/perjeta-breast-cancer-drug-fda_n_4017479.html
FDA approves Roche’s pricey new Herceptin partner, Perjeta: http://www.fiercepharma.com/story/fda-approves-roches-pricey-new-herceptin-partner-perjeta/2012-06-11
3)Genentech wins approval for new breast cancer drug: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/09/business/genentech-wins-approval-for-new-breast-cancer-drug.html