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New FDA-approved therapy is keeping metastatic breast cancer at bay better than other treatments

“This actually attaches a little bit of chemotherapy to it and makes it superior to a lot of other things we've had before,” one oncologist said.

PITTSBURGH — One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime – the second leading cause of cancer death for women, behind lung cancer – but after years of clinical trials, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved an exciting new targeted therapy for women with metastatic HER2 low cancer.

Two-hundred sixty-four thousand women will get a breast cancer diagnosis this year. Fifty to 60% will have a type of cancer called HER2 low, which means the tumors have low levels of the HER2 protein on the surface of the cancer cell. 

Now, the FDA has approved a treatment called Enhertu for metastatic HER2 low breast cancers that cannot be surgically removed.

Medical oncologist at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Dr. Adam Brufsky, MD, PhD, explained, “This actually attaches a little bit of chemotherapy to it and makes it superior to a lot of other things we've had before.”

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For women whose breast cancer had not spread, the standard treatment was chemotherapy. But for metastatic HER2 low cancer, there were few additional options, until clinical trials showed Enhertu kept the cancer at bay better than other treatments.

“A therapy that basically, at least doubles the amount of time that women can live with their disease without the cancer progressing,” Dr. Brufsky added.

Enhertu is delivered as an IV drip once every three weeks.

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Dr. Brufsky mentioned, “It improves our overall survival, even if they've had multiple other therapies in the past. I think it's something, really that 75 to 80% of our women with metastatic breast cancer can now get.”

Doctors say patients with other types of cancer that are HER2 low may also benefit from Enhertu, including patients with gastric, lung, pancreatic and colorectal cancer. Enhertu is already FDA-approved for some patients with advanced gastric cancer and is being tested for its benefits in other tumor types.

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