'Alarming' underuse of trastuzumab in breast cancer

Nearly one-half of all eligible patients aged 65 years and older with Stage I–III breast cancer do not receive trastuzumab-based therapy, which has been proven effective.

Nearly one-half of all eligible patients aged 65 years and older with Stage I–III breast cancer do not receive trastuzumab-based therapy, which has been proven effective. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers found that not only are many women not receiving the treatment, African-American women in particular are not getting it. According to the data, African-American women are 25% less likely than white women to receive trastuzumab in the year after diagnosis. The rates were so low that the study authors noted in the report that they had to recheck their numbers multiple times. One key barrier to using the drug is the price tag. "The fact that trastuzumab needs to be given with chemotherapy, and must be given over a 1-year period, may also make some providers or women decide that it is not feasible for them," said lead author Katherine Reeder-Hayes, MD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The researchers noted that further research is necessary to understand the barriers to treatment and increase the usage rate among all patients, particularly minorities.