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The Boston Globe

Health & wellness

First pre-surgery drug approved for breast cancer: will more follow?

The US Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug to shrink breast tumors before surgery. While oncologists sometimes use chemotherapy to treat certain breast cancers before surgery, the new drug -- called Perjeta (pertuzumab) -- was the first to be approved specifically for this purpose in patients with early stage breast cancers that respond to the HER2 protein.

Perjeta was approved last year to treat metastatic HER-2 positive breast cancer, but so far it’s only been tested before surgery in those with early breast cancers that haven’t spread. In a trial of 417 breast cancer patients who received Perjecta along with a combination of other drugs over two months, 39 percent had their tumor completely disappear before surgery compared to 21 percent who took the standard combination of drugs.

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