New hope for breast cancer patients

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    There is good news for cancer patients, breast cancer patients in particular.

    Dr. Jorge Ignacio, medical oncologist and chairman of the Cancer Institute at the UP-Philippine General Hospital said biosimilars, an effective and affordable treatment for cancer is now available in the Philippines.

    The announcement was made at a press conference on Biosimilars at The Manila Hotel, recently. Titled, “Reaching More Patients with Breast Cancer”, the conference was addressed by leading Oncologists from the U.S. and Philippines.

    Speaking at the press conference, Dr. Ignacio explained that prior to the introduction of biosimilars, there was the expensive breast cancer treatment, Trastuzumab. Trastuzumab is a biologic drug that is used for the treatment of patients with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) positive breast cancer. Now that its patent has expired, biosimilars of Trastuzumab have been developed.

    The efficacy and safety of the biosimilar is similar to the originator. It is also much more affordable, thus increasing the access for breast cancer treatment to a wider number of patients.

    Dr. Hope S. Rugo, Director and Professor of Breast Oncology and Clinical Trials Education at the University of California, San Francisco – who was the key speaker at the press conference – defined biosimilars as medicinal products that have received regulatory approval because of their similarity to an existing biologic drug.

    “Biosimilars have a variety of potential benefits. Additional treatment choices, lower costs, increased access, and savings. Now we clearly can save the lives of more women with breast cancer, the most common cancer worldwide and the most common cause of cancer death in women. We need to change that, so we are improving access to biologic therapy worldwide,” Dr. Rugo said.

    Dr. Jorge Ignacio said UP-Philippine General Hospital, where many indigent cancer patients go, will be able to serve more patients with biosimilars. “Now there’s a choice. There’s hope that we can deliver what is due for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer with this affordable treatment. We will all do our part to bring cancer treatment to its ultimate level at the Cancer Center and have readied the requisition for this medicine”.

    Dr. Jose Garcia Jr, current president of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO) said, “It is time for us to get our act together to help the poor, marginalized cancer patients. Affordable medication is what is critically needed. If the practice allows for biosimilars to be used overall, it will cost even less to cure more cancer patients.”