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Two new breast cancer therapies listed on the PBS

Australian women with an aggressive sub-type of breast cancer now have affordable access to two treatments through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

From 1 July, women with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer can access Perjeta (pertuzumab) and Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine) at a subsidised rate. For the past two years, women taking these therapies were paying between $12,000 and $20,000 for treatment or receiving them as part of a clinical trial or compassionate access program.

Director of the Patricia Ritchie Centre for Cancer Care and Research at the Mater Hospital, Professor Fran Boyle, says this announcement has brought a great sense of relief around the country in the 20 per cent of breast cancer sufferers who have the HER2-positive strain.

“We are thrilled that Australian women with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer will finally have the same affordable access to these cancer treatments as women in many other countries,” she said

Kadcyla works by seeking out HER2-positive breast cancer cells and attaching to them, halting growth and signalling for the body’s natural immune system to destroy the cancer cells. Kadcyla also has the ability to carry chemotherapy to the inside of cancer cells, destroying cancer from the inside out.

Perjeta works by blocking HER2 receptors from partnering up. This turns off signals that tell cancer cells to grow and divide.

Both Kadcyla and Perjeta have been shown in clinical trials to be superior to current treatment options for women with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer.

While neither Kadcyla nor Perjeta offer a cure from advanced HER2-positive breast cancer, they can extend the life of women living with this form of the disease. These treatments are also better tolerated, with less side effects than other treatments, meaning that women live longer with a better quality of life.