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T-DM1 sounds like something out a “Star Wars” movie, but it’s actually an experimental drug that may prove a powerful tool in the fight against breast cancer.
CNN reports that T-DM1 is designed to treat women with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer. It combines the targeted drug trastuzumab (the “T” in T-DM1), better known by the brand name Herceptin, and a very powerful chemotherapy drug called emtansine (the “DM1″ part).
According to lead study author Dr. Kimberly Blackwell, Herceptin acts as a carrier pigeon, delivering emtansine to the cancer cell. (The chemo drug is too toxic to deliver directly into the bloodstream.) DM1 then kills the cell.
The experimental drug, it should be noted, doesn’t cure breast cancer. But in a clinical trial, women getting T-DM1 had 9.6 months of progression-free survival, the time between starting the treatment and the cancer getting worse again. That’s compared with 6.4 months in the standard therapy group – a median improvement of three months.
Blackwell says that after two years, 65% of women getting T-DM1 were still alive, compared with 48% in the control group. She added that women on the drug didn’t suffer from such common chemotherapy side effects as nausea, vomiting and hair loss.