If you have early breast cancer, this is important news for you.
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If you have early breast cancer, this is important news for you.

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A new treatment has been registered to use before surgery in HER2-positive early breast cancer.

PERJETA® has been used for several years as part of the treatment for advanced HER2-positive breast cancers.

The important news is that PERJETA has now also been registered by Medsafe to treat HER2-positive early breast cancer before surgery (neoadjuvant treatment).

What breast cancers can PERJETA be used to treat?

HER2 is a protein that exists in healthy human cells, causing the cells to grow and divide. Some cancer cells have extra HER2 receptors, making them multiply too fast and cause tumours. These are known as ‘HER2-positive’ cancers.

PERJETA is only effective in HER2-positive breast cancers, so you will need to have a HER2 test before your specialist can decide whether it’s right for you.

How does PERJETA work?

PERJETA is designed to target HER2 receptors on the surface of the cancer cells by blocking their ability to send signals to cells.

It’s usually given alongside other medicines – Herceptin® and chemotherapy. Herceptin blocks HER2 receptors in a different way to PERJETA, and together they’re thought to create a strong blockade against HER2 signals, helping to slow the growth of cancer cells.

Because normal cells also have HER2- receptors, HER2-targeted therapies can affect healthy cells and cause serious side effects. Your specialist can explain these in detail.

When will I be treated with PERJETA?

PERJETA can be used as part of your treatment before surgery (neoadjuvant treatment), to help shrink the tumour and improve the chance that your surgery will be successful.

Typically, you’ll have PERJETA every three weeks for 12 – 18 weeks as an intravenous infusion (directly into your bloodstream through a vein).

After surgery, your doctors will analyse the tissue they remove. If no cancer cells are present, the tumour has had a ‘pathological complete response’ (pCR) to the treatment. This is important as it will help your specialists decide which therapies are likely to work best after surgery.

How effective is PERJETA?

Two clinical trials have shown that PERJETA given before surgery shrinks tumours. In one of these trials, 46% of patients treated with PERJETA, Herceptin and chemotherapy had a pathological complete response (pCR) compared with 29% of patients treated with Herceptin and chemotherapy.

How can I access PERJETA?

PERJETA for the neoadjuvant treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer is not a PHARMAC funded treatment. However, you can access it through a private oncology centre if it’s recommended by your specialist.

What’s more, our cost share programme makes it an affordable treatment option – providing a number of doses free-of-charge and spreading the cost over time.

Find out if PERJETA is right for you. Talk to your specialist today.

PM-NZ-0173/TAPSNA9318/2017JULY