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A new study shows combined therapy is linked to a lower chance of recurrence in women with small, HER2+ breast cancers.

In a new study, women with relatively small, HER2-positive breast tumors who received a combination of lower-intensity chemotherapy and a targeted therapy following surgery or radiation therapy were very unlikely to have the cancer recur within a few years of treatment, investigators at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute working with other research centers including the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, reported at the 2013 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

The findings offer, for the first time, a set of standard treatment guidelines for recurrence prevention in this group of patients. Previous studies of chemotherapy plus targeted therapy in women with HER2-positive breast cancer that hadn’t spread to nearby lymph nodes included few patients whose tumors were comparatively small (less than 3 cm in diameter). The study used a combination of the chemotherapy agent paclitaxel and Herceptin, treating patients with the drug combination for 12 weeks, followed by nine months of Herceptin alone.

The lead author of the study is Sara Tolaney, MD, at Dana-Farber. Co-authors include Lisa A. Carey, MD, Richardson and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer Distinguished Professor in Breast Cancer Research at UNC Lineberger.