Gene-Therapy Test on Breast Cancer

A gene-based therapy used in some patients with late-stage breast cancer will now be tested on women with early-stage cancers, according to UCLA researchers.

More than 3,000 women who possess a specific gene alteration and who have early-stage cancers will be solicited for the study, which will be conducted at UCLA and hundreds of other institutions nationwide. The study will test standard chemotherapy combinations for early-stage breast cancer with and without the therapy, known as Herceptin.

Herceptin was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1998 for patients with advanced cancer. The drug is thought to attack a specific mutation in the HER-2/neu gene. Women with this gene abnormality--about 25% to 30% of breast cancer patients--tend to have cancer that grows and spreads quickly.

Studies have already shown that Herceptin increases survival rates for advanced-stage breast cancer patients with the gene defect. Researchers hope that Herceptin, if given in breast cancer's early stages, can provide the best chance for a cure.

Women interested in finding out more about the study can call the Jonsson Cancer Center clinical trials hotline toll-free at (888) 798-0719.

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