How much survival is enough?


Yesterday, the FDA approved a new breast cancer chemotherapy called Halaven (eribulin). It was tested in women with metastatic disease that had several courses of chemotherapy already. This is a pretty hard-to-treat patient population, and Halaven extended survival by a median of 2.5 months.When we published yesterday's blog on the drug approval (New drug approved for breast cancer) we got a few comments on our facebook page about it ( Just two and a half months? I pray to God my BC does not come back if that's the best they can do. :-(It is a scary thought. All the excitement about a new drug that does extend life, and then we hear it's only about 3 months. Without the drug, the median survival was about 10.6 months, with it, 13.1 months. Not something you want to hear if you have metastatic breast cancer. You want a cure, and rightfully so.But ... it's only the median. There are women who lived longer than the 13 months, but then some women did not live as long. It's also a trade-off with the side effects.It's also extra time. I think it's ironic that we ran Suzanne Lindley's blog about living with metastatic colorectal cancer (Three months of it worth it?) a couple of weeks before a drug was approved that extended life about three months. Suzanne talked about hearing an oncologist at a medical meeting say, "Three months - why bother?" She responded by explaining that in late 2004 she was planning her funeral, but then she discovered a new treatment option that has worked for her. She's "hitchhiked" on various treatments over the years that have given her a month here, a year there, and has streatched it out for more than a decade. Of course, Suzanne's story isn't typical, but it does give us hope. Hope that three months may mean another milestone or another memory. It could also mean that it buys a patient time until a new clinical trial comes along or another drug approval.

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