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$100,000 for HER2 breast cancer testing

News Release

$100,000 for HER2 breast cancer testing
- Every woman with breast cancer can determine her HER2 status


Auckland, 6th September 2005 – Roche Products (New Zealand) Ltd has agreed to provide an estimated $100,000 a year to support national testing for HER2 positive breast cancer at Auckland DHB’s laboratory LabPLUS. HER2 breast cancer is an aggressive, frequently recurring cancer requiring complex gene specific testing. The funding will help provide all women diagnosed with breast cancer with a clear picture of their treatment options and starts from 1st September.

Roche has funded HER2 Fluorescence In-Situ Hybridisation (FISH) testing for women with advanced breast cancer since 2003 with around 170 women tested at a cost of almost $60,000. The decision to extend the funding support is a result of increasing evidence that knowing every woman’s HER2 status before initiating treatment can affect the treatment selected and therefore the likely outcome. This is supported by new research into the use of biological treatment Herceptin (trastuzumab) in early stage HER2 positive breast cancer which showed women reduced their risk of the cancer coming back by 46%*1.

FISH testing is a secondary test conducted for women who produce inconclusive HER2 Immunohistochemistry (IHC) results. IHC tests are routinely carried out to determine women’s likely response to certain anti-cancer therapies and determine their eligibility for Herceptin. The FISH testing carried out by LabPLUS won the 2004 Ministry of Health Innovation Award.

Roche Products Sales and Marketing Director Stuart Knight says this private – public partnership will provide woman clarity around their choices. “Breast cancer continues to kill hundreds of New Zealand women every year but recent clinical trials show a potential halving of recurrence rates of HER2 breast cancer and prolonged life expectancy. With this in mind the accurate assessment of a woman’s HER2 status has become a fundamental pre-treatment step to give them the best chance of survival.”

“FISH testing costs have been difficult to manage for each regional cancer centre with their limited budget. The new agreement will ensure every woman who needs a confirmatory FISH test can receive it at no cost to the public health system. The LabPLUS partnership ensures women with HER2 breast cancer will receive uniform and accurate diagnosis and can potentially be more actively involved in deciding on their treatment choices.”

Palmerston North Oncologist Dr Richard Isaacs says, “Identification of the HER2 status of all breast cancers at the time of primary surgery is now required, not only to define patients’ optimal adjuvant therapy which gives the potential to increase cure, but also to have early information on the most effective therapy should the cancer relapse.”


* p value <0.0001: The p value indicates the ‘statistical significance’ of these clinical studies.
ENDS

About Roche
Roche Products (New Zealand) Ltd is committed to providing innovative products for cancer care in New Zealand. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is one of the world’s leading research-orientated health groups in the fields of pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and vitamins. Roche’s products and services address prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, enhancing well-being and quality of life. Roche employs some 62 000 people in more than 150 countries around the world. The company has business alliances and R&D relationships with numerous partners, including majority ownership interests in Genentech and Chugai, which are both members of the Roche Group.

References
1) Piccart-Gebhart, M. First results of the HERA trial, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Scientific Session, May 16, 2005

What you should know about Herceptin
HERCEPTIN (trastuzumab) is a Prescription Medicine used to treat patients with metastatic (spreading) breast cancer who have tumours with a large amount of the HER2 protein.

Tell your doctor if you have coronary artery disease, hypertension, heart failure, lung disease or tumours, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Possible unwanted effects: Common: chills, shivering, fever, nausea, vomiting, pain, stiffness, shaking, headache, dizziness, cough, skin rashes, weakness, fatigue, abnormal heart beat, feeling faint, insomnia, anxiety, depression, runny or blocked nose, flu-like symptoms, chest infection, pain on urination, diarrhoea, hair loss, muscle or joint soreness. Serious: shortness of breath or breathing difficulty, severe coughing, severe feet or leg swelling, chest pain, abnormal heart beat, severe diarrhoea, feeling faint.

Ask your oncologist if HERCEPTIN is right for you. Use strictly as directed. If symptoms continue or you experience side effects or would like further information, please talk to your oncologist or visit www.medsafe.govt.nz for HERCEPTIN Consumer Medicine Information. HERCEPTIN (150mg and 440mg vials) is a funded medicine under Special Authority. A prescription charge and normal oncologist fees may apply.

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