FDA approves expanded use of breast cancer drug

PHILADELPHIA The Food and Drug Administration has given an additional approval to a breast cancer drug made by GlaxoSmithKline, GSK announced Friday.

The FDA approved Tykerb (lapatinib) combined with Novartis’ Femara (letrozole) as an all-oral, first-line treatment for postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer that overexpresses the HER2 protein. HER2 is involved in normal cell growth, but can contribute to cancer when found on cancer cells, and between 25% and 30% of breast cancers overexpress the protein; 60% to 70% of breast cancer cases in the United States and Europe are hormone receptor-positive.

“This combination of Tykerb plus Femara is an example of advancing science and improving patient care,” GSK Oncology research and development SVP Paolo Paoletti said. “This regimen attacks two specific receptors that drive cancer growth. Women battling this disease now have the opportunity to delay the use of traditional cytotoxic chemotherapy, which is an exciting possibility for them.”

Tykerb already had approval as a combination with Roche’s Xeloda (capecitabine) chemotherapy in patients with HER2 advanced or metastatic breast cancer who had received prior therapy with anthracycline chemotherapy and Genentech’s Herceptin (trastuzumab). So far, however, Tykerb combined with Femara — or any other drug belonging to Femara’s class, known as aromatase inhibitors — has not been compared with a treatment regimen based on Herceptin and chemotherapy.