The Culprit is Cancer
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there was this: Though chemotherapy for breast cancer often has
numerous hideous side effects, Herceptin has relatively few and
comparatively mild ones. "We're fairly certain there are going to
be better ways to use this drug," Slamon told the attentive crowd.
An FDA ruling on Herceptin is expected by the end of the year.
only hinted at it, but the larger significance of his work with
Herceptin escaped no one. Never before had anyone achieved success
attacking a genetic alteration in cancer. The tenacious UCLA scientist
had achieved precisely that. He had pioneered a new frontier in
his appearance at the ASCO conference, interest in Herceptin
has exploded and Slamon has been inundated with calls from all over.
"Most troubling," he says, "are the patients who want to know, 'When
can I get it? Why can't I have it right now?' This thing is moving
as fast as it possibly can. But that's hard to explain to women
who have metastatic breast cancer or are dying."
Herceptin receives FDA approval, Slamon expects it will be used
to treat women even earlier in their disease than the patients in
the UCLA trials. "There is absolutely no reason to think it will
work any differently," he says confidently. "The biology should
be the same in early breast cancer as in late breast cancer."
remain the women in the study for whom the drug did not work. The
Big Question is: Why not? "What's going on with those women?" Slamon
asks rhetorically. "Are there other alterations occurring alongside
HER-2 that play a role? Are other alterations necessary to see the
response? These questions are unanswered, but we're pursuing them