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Herceptin link to heart risk

15th August 2006

06032006_herceptin1.jpgA study by American scientists shows that patients are at greater risk of heart damage from the drug Herceptin than had been thought.

Research suggests that a quarter of those prescribed it for late-stage breast cancer suffer from cardiac complications; 28 per cent suffered heart problems linked to muscle damage. The risk was acceptable and the majority of the heart damage could be reversed with treatment, the researchers said.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said in June, when approving the drug for early-stage use, that heart function must be assessed beforehand. NICE also said that the drug should not be given to those at risk of heart failure and that patients should undergo regular assessments.

The authors of the paper, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, stressed that while heart muscle damage may be an issue for patients taking Herceptin for early-stage disease, the results of the study could not be applied directly.

Professor Francisco Esteva, from the Department of Breast Medical Oncology at the University of Texas, said that the latest findings gave an insight into longer-term use of Herceptin. He said that “The drug substantially prolongs survival, and while we found substantial cardiac toxicity, we also discovered that this side effect can be successfully treated, which was not clearly known before this study,? 
 
 

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