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Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Tag Archives: Herceptin

Trends Update — Comparative Effectiveness and Personalized Medicine: Is Canada Ahead of the U.S. In the Use of HER2 Testing for Personalized Breast Cancer Treatment?

B&W_DNA_sequenceFor the 20%-30% of breast cancer patients with tumors that overexpress HER2, treatment with Herceptin (an antibody drug from GenetechRoche) is highly effective.  That’s why this article in the journal Cancer is so shocking.  The authors gathered data from a variety of published sources and estimate that:

“up to 66% of eligible patients had no documentation of testing in claims records, up to 20% of patients receiving trastuzumab were not tested or had no documentation of a positive test, and 20% of HER2 results may be incorrect.”

I asked a friend, who is a genetic counsellor in Toronto, if she thought the gaps here were as bad.  She said no, and that she would be extremely surprised not to see a HER2 result in a patient’s file.

Of course it’s not valid to draw conclusions about national health care from a comparison of the Cancer study to my anecdote.  Among other reasons, the authors admit their data is flawed and dated, and my friend works at one of Canada’s top teaching hospitals.  Nevertheless, the possibility that many U.S. patients could be falling through the cracks is extremely disturbing.

If clinicians can’t adopt and maintain near-universal use of a personalized medicine approach like HER2-Herceptin with recognized and measurable benefits, the future of pharmacogenomics is in some big trouble and we will never generate truly useful comparative effectiveness data.

H/T @FiercePharma.

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