Saturday, October 26, 2013

Trastuzumab

In Dario Ringach's presentation to university vivisectors, he relied heavily on his claim that the development of Trastuzumab, or herceptin, as a breast cancer treatment is a glowing example of the tremendous benefits that stem directly from animal experimentation.*

It's been my experience that whenever a vivisector makes a specific claim in a public venue about the benefits of animal experimentation that it always bears close scrutiny.

Well, I didn't have to scrutinize very much:
From Wikipedia: Trastuzumab (INN; trade names Herclon, Herceptin) is a monoclonal antibody that interferes with the HER2/neu receptor. Its main use is to treat certain breast cancers.

The HER receptors are proteins that are embedded in the cell membrane and communicate molecular signals from outside the cell (molecules called EGFs) to inside the cell, and turn genes on and off. The HER proteins stimulate cell proliferation. In some cancers, notably certain types of breast cancer, HER2 is over-expressed, and causes cancer cells to reproduce uncontrollably.

The original studies of trastuzumab showed that it improved overall survival in late-stage (metastatic) breast cancer from 20.3 to 25.1 months. In early stage breast cancer, it reduces the risk of cancer returning after surgery by an absolute risk of 9.5%, and the risk of death by an absolute risk of 3% however increases serious heart problems by an absolute risk of 2.1% which may resolve if treatment is stopped. Trastuzumab is controversial partly because of its cost, as much as $54,000 per year, and while certain private insurance companies in the U.S. and government health care systems in Canada, UK and elsewhere have refused to pay for trastuzumab for certain patients, some companies have since accepted trastuzumab treatment as a covered preventative treatment.

*When asked about animal experimentation that was apparently an uncomfortable question for him, he side-stepped the issue with the excuse that he didn't do that sort of work -- like product testing. His work deals with the minutia of brain function in (previously, monkeys) in mice. That did not stop him from cloaking himself in the new clothes of a "cure for cancer."

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