For women with one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer known as HER-2 positive breast cancer, a new drug treatment in clinical trials called T-DM1 may be the “miracle drug” they’ve been waiting for.
It utilizes two drugs already in use but employs a more targeted delivery mechanism that packs more cancer-killing punch without the extreme side effects often experienced with traditional chemotherapy.
T-DM1 acts like a “Trojan Horse” by using the targeted HER-2 antibody trastuzumab, (herceptin) to carry the cancer-killing agent, DM1, directly to cancer cells. The toxic DM1 remains attached to the antibody and inactive until the antibody binds to an HER-2 protein on the surface of a tumor. Then the toxin is released into the tumor.
In trials 45% of women had a positive response with a halt in tumor growth. In 32% of patients their tumors shrank.
The women in the trial all had Stage 3 or Stage 4 HER2-positive breast cancer and had undergone an average of seven previous drug regimes without success. Short of a miracle, T-DM1 was their last hope.
Access to TDM-1
To receive this drug, you have to enroll in a clinical trial. There are many different T-DM1 trials ongoing with differing criteria for participation. To find an open trial near you, there is a list of recruiting trials maintained by Clinicaltrials.gov.
Researchers must be confident of this new treatment as they have also created an “extension” study for T-DM1 that essentially allows cancer patients who’ve been in the trials to continue on the drug indefinitely. Your doctor just needs to recommend that you stay on the drug to be included in the extension study.
Some doctors may also prescribe experimental drugs under the “compassionate use” rule which allows patients to use an unapproved drug when no other treatment is available.
New York Times