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Tykerb May Help Treat HER2-Positive Inflammatory Breast Cancer

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A study found that the targeted therapy Tykerb (chemical name: lapatanib) may be effective against HER2-positive inflammatory breast cancer after other treatments don't work any more. Tykerb currently is approved to be given in combination with Xeloda (chemical name: capecitabine), a type of chemotherapy, to treat advanced, HER2-positive breast cancer that has stopped responding to anthracyclines, taxanes, and Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab).

This research was a phase II study, which means it is an small, early study looking at how effective a treatment is. Before a new treatment or new use for a treatment is approved, phase III studies must be done.

Inflammatory breast cancer is an uncommon but aggressive form of the disease. Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include swelling, redness, and tenderness of the breast. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are all used to treat inflammatory breast cancer. About 30% to 40% of inflammatory breast cancers are HER2-positive. The targeted therapy Herceptin also is used to treat HER2-positive inflammatory breast cancer.

In the study reviewed here, 126 women diagnosed with HER2-positive inflammatory breast cancer that had stopped responding to other treatments (including chemotherapy and Herceptin) were treated with Tykerb. Tykerb is a pill taken by mouth once a day.

  • Tykerb was effective in about 40% of the women. The amount of skin affected by the cancer decreased by 50% or more in these women.
  • Women who hadn't received Herceptin before were more likely to get benefits from Tykerb. About 75% of the women had been treated with Herceptin before, so about 25% were not.
  • None of the women had all signs of the cancer go away after taking Tykerb.
  • Five women died from complications that might have been related to taking Tykerb. Still it wasn't clear if Tykerb caused these complications.

This study suggests that Tykerb might be a good treatment for HER2-positive inflammatory breast cancer when the cancer stops responding to other treatments. Still, this research is early. More research is needed to figure out how beneficial and safe Tykerb is when used for this purpose.

If you've been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, talk to your doctor about the results of this study and whether Tykerb might be an option for you. You and your doctor also may want to consider whether participating in a clinical trial on inflammatory breast cancer treatments might make sense for you.

Learn more in the Inflammatory Breast Cancer area.

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