Herceptin is to overcome cancer

Up to 500 Ulster patients with early-stage &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/science/19/94/377/12309_milk.html ' target=_blank>breast cancer could now benefit from a drug, previously used to prolong the lives of only those with advanced stages of the disease, it emerged today.

It follows a major new US study which showed the "effectiveness" of Herceptin in preventing recurrence of the illness in patients who had undergone surgery for early breast cancer.

And today, Northern Ireland's top cancer expert, Professor Patrick Johnston, Head of Oncology at Belfast City Hospital, said the findings were "great news" for breast cancer patients.

The drug, which targets genetic switches that spur the growth of breast tumours, was being used in combination with chemotherapy to help advanced disease patients. The switches, known as HER-2, are present in 20% to 30% of women with breast cancer.

Herceptin was first used in 1998 to treat advanced breast cancer in patients whose tumours tested positive for HER-2.

The new study is sponsored by the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2002/08/22/35076.html ' target=_blank>National Cancer Institute with which Northern Ireland has a vital link-up, reports the Belfast Telegraph.

Shares in Roche, which have been riding on a wave of positive assessments for Genentech's cancer treatments, were up 0.2 percent at 143.40 Swiss francs by 6:26 a.m. EDT.

Analysts at Merrill Lynch said the data from an international study released on Thursday and two U.S. studies released earlier in the week showed the blockbuster treatment could be used for women after surgery.

"The adjuvant market is significantly larger than the existing addressable market of metastatic breast cancer and we increase our 2009 Herceptin sales estimate to 4.2 billion francs from 2.5 billion," Merrill Lynch analysts wrote in a note.

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