Q: I was watching CNN last week and noticed news on the bottom of the screen that stated that the FDA approved a late-stage breast cancer drug. What is the name of this drug and what relief does it give a breast cancer patient? Also, can a patient be prescribed this drug now, or is this going to happen in the future?
—William McKee Jr., Flowery Branch
A: Kadcyla, known as T-DM1 during clinical research, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 22 and is described as a “a new therapy for patients with HER2-positive, late-stage (metastatic) breast cancer.” Genentech, which developed Kadcyla, said it would be available “within days,” and that it would cost about $9,800 a month, or $94,000 during the course of treatment, according to The New York Times. “Kadcyla delivers the drug to the cancer site to shrink the tumor, slow disease progression and prolong survival. It is the fourth approved drug that targets the HER2 protein,” Richard Pazdur, director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a release. It “extended the median survival of women with advanced breast cancer by nearly half a year in a clinical trial,” according to the Times. The severe side effects include liver toxicity, heart toxicity, serious birth defects or fetal death. Lesser side effects include nausea, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headaches and constipation, according to the FDA.
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