New breast cancer drug 2022: what is Enhertu, does it improve survival rates, is it available in the UK?

Enhertu is manufactured by AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo

A new clinical trial has revealed that the drug Enhertu was found to cut the rate of death in a group of women with advanced breast cancer by a third.

But what is Enhertu, does it improve survival rates and is it available in the UK?

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Enhertu is a targeted therapy for breast cancer

Here’s what you need to know.

What is Enhertu?

Enhertu is a targeted therapy which works against unresectable (not removable with surgery) and metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer that has been treated with an anti-HER2 medicine.

Recent research demonstrated that Enhertu also significantly improved the overall survival rates of patients when the disease had spread throughout their bodies.

This marks the first time such a targeted therapy has improved survival rates in patients suffering from HER2-low metastatic breast cancer, which is a category that covers up to half of all late-stage breast cancer patients, according to Breastcancer.org.

Breast tumours that have higher levels of a protein known as HER2 are called HER2-positive breast cancers.

Is Enhertu available in the UK?

Enhertu, which is manufactured by AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo, is currently available to around 400 women with advanced breast cancer in England.

In April 2021, the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended Enhertu for use within NHS England’s Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) as an option for treating HER2 positive unresectable or metastatic breast cancer in adults who have received two or more prior anti-HER2 based therapies.

What are the treatments for breast cancer?

The NHS said that if you have breast cancer, you should be assigned a multidisciplinary team (MDT) - a group of specialists who work together to provide the best treatment and care.

The main treatments for breast cancer are:

  • surgery
  • radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy
  • hormone therapy
  • targeted therapy

You may have one of these treatments or a combination, but the type or combination of treatments you have will depend on how the cancer was diagnosed and the stage it’s at.

Breast cancer diagnosed at routine screening may be at an early stage, but breast cancer diagnosed when you have symptoms may be at a later stage and require a different treatment.

When deciding what treatment is best for you, your doctors will consider:

  • the stage and grade of the cancer (how big it is and how far it has spread)
  • your general health
  • whether you have experienced the menopause

You should be able to discuss your treatment and which may be most suitable with your care team at any time, as well as being able to ask any questions you may have.