Breast cancer patients have reacted positively to the UK launch of Roche's Kadcyla but are hoping for permanent access to the treatment and not just through the Cancer Drugs Fund.

The antibody drug conjugate combines the Swiss major's blockbuster Herceptin (trastuzumab) with partner ImmunoGen's chemotherapy DM1 (emtansine). In November, the European Medicines Agency approved its use in patients who were previously treated with Herceptin and taxanes.

Kadcyla's green light is based on Phase III data which showed that overall survival for patients with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer was 30.9 months, compared to 25.1 months for those treated with the only currently licensed treatment combo, namely GlaxoSmithKline's Tykerb/Tyverb (lapatinib) plus capecitabine chemotherapy.
Roche quoted Paul Ellis, professor of cancer medicine at King’s College London, as saying that Kadcyla represents "a new way of targeting HER2-positive breast cancer, which ultimately means that we could extend patients’ lives compared to existing chemotherapy treatment". In addition, he added, "we should be able to reduce many of the symptomatic side effects associated with standard chemotherapy".

Earlier this month, Kadcyla was one of three new therapies that can now be accessed on the National Health Service through the English Cancer Drugs Fund. Also patients may be able to access the combo through funding requests in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales or through some private health insurance policies.

The reaction among patients has been positive. Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s senior policy manager Caitlin Palframan said the launch is "a huge step forward", adding that Kadcyla has  more manageable side effects than alternative drugs". She noted that “1,000 women die from metastatic, or secondary, breast cancer every month in the UK and this treatment has the potential to provide some of them not only with additional time, but importantly, quality time to spend with their friends and families".
However, in a statement sent  to PharmaTimes, Ms Palframan said that the CDF "is only guaranteed until 2016". She dded that "we strongly believe a permanent, sustainable process by which drugs like this are made available to patients across England on a long term basis is desperately needed".