Cancer confab may boost Novartis, GSK

As usual, when a bunch of doctors get together with a slew of researchers, press releases poured out of the breast cancer symposium in San Antonio this week. Here's a sampling of the news that could affect your favorite drugmakers.

  • The Novartis bone drug Zometa got another breast-cancer boost from a preliminary report that the drug helped shrink tumors and reduced the likelihood of radical surgery in a study of postmenopausal women. The bone-loss drug had already shocked physicians this year when a study suggested that it cut the risk of cancer recurrence in pre-menopausal women.
  • Combining GlaxoSmithKline's Tykerb with Novartis' Femara can hold off progression of breast cancer, researchers said. A 1,286-patient study found that women with aggressive, HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer did significantly better on the combo of Tykerb (lapatinib) and Femara (letrozole).
  • In another Femara study, women who took the oral med for five years after surgery had a 13 percent reduced risk of death compared with those who took the longstanding treatment tamoxifen. According to Novartis, when you back out the women who took tamoxifen and then chose to switch to Femara after a couple of years, the survival benefit jumps to 19 percent.
  • Roche/Genentech's Herceptin showed a long-term benefit for HER2-positive patients with a high risk of recurrence. About 70 percent of women who got Herceptin plus chemo before surgery were cancer-free three years later compared with about 50 percent of those who got only chemo.

Keep your ears open ... the meeting continues through tomorrow.

- check out Novartis' releases here and here
- see the Washington Post story
- read the news from MarketWatch
- find the Science News story
- check out the item at In Sciences