New study: Cheaper version of Herceptin found to be just as effective

The biosimilar drug mimics Herceptin and targets aggressive breast cancer tumors effectively and at lower cost.

A new ‘biosimilar’ drug currently named MYL-1401O, has been produced and trialed that replicates the breast cancer drug Herceptin and found to be equally effective and much cheaper.

Herceptin, produced by pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG, is administered to many women with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer which usually has a more aggressive tumor growth due to the genes located in the tissue.

Researchers underwent the first ever clinical trials, funded by Mylan Pharmaceuticals, to compare an experimental drug with a brand and presented the results at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The trial involved 500 women separated into two groups who both received chemotherapy together with either Herceptin or the MYL-1401O trastuzumab antibody drug. This continued for eight cycles before administering Herceptin by itself until the disease progressed.

What they found was, six months later, both groups had similar results with 64 percent response rate for Herceptin and 70 percent for MYL-1401O. Serious side effects in the participants were also similar with 38 percent with the biosimilar drug and 36 percent with Herceptin.

This is good news for patients who don’t have access to expensive drugs or can’t afford them. According to a Reuters report, biotech drugs are made from living cells and therefore are easier to mimic than chemical drugs. The creation of biosimilar drugs has the potential to revolutionize the drug market in the future.

“Trastuzumab has markedly improved survival of women with HER2-positive breast cancer, but many women around the world can’t benefit from trastuzumab due to its high cost,” lead study author Dr Hope Rugo, professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, said in a statement.

“Mylan NV’s copycat version of Roche Holding AG’s breast cancer drug Herceptin appeared just as potent in a trial as the brand-name medicine that generates $6.8 billion a year, raising the possibility that a less expensive treatment option is on the horizon in the U.S.”

The findings are yet to be peer-reviewed and published.

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