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The New Cancer Drugs; Herceptin, Iressa & Olaparib - Set to Revolutionise Cancer Treatment?

Updated on October 5, 2012

Anyone who has heard much about these new cancer drugs will most likely be eagerly awaiting their arrival on the market, especially those who are currently battling cancer themselves or looking out for a loved one. But do these new cancer drugs truly give good ground for the hope inspired in so many people?

All those who have read my hub, "Chemotherapy & the Corrupt Reality Surrounding Cancer Treatment," will most likely have a good idea about my reasons for suspicion on these new cancer drugs, they are with good reason, but have the medical industry this time really come up with something this good?

Well I am immediately doubtful, due to the fact that we are just looking at more 'drugs,' I had hoped for, at least, something sounding a bit more like a 'revolution.' Still these new drugs have to offer a far better alternative to chemotherapy, right? Wrong.

I found it hard to believe that this new line of cancer drugs are only used either along side chemotherapy, or following a number of unsuccessful treatments of chemotherapy. Surely in this day & age treatments with the horrific side effects & pitiful survival rates, such as chemotherapy, should have long ago been ancient history!? One would think that chemotherapy had finally run its course, especially in terms of credibility? Wrong again. The new cancer drugs would appear to further promote the usage of chemotherapy, either by claiming to enhance its effectiveness, or by providing a second option should initial treatment of chemotherapy be unsuccessful.

Surely then the side effects & potential dangers of these new drugs were much less than those posed by chemotherapy? Well, this would appear to be somewhat the case, with those undergoing clinical trials of some of these drugs claiming them to be "much easier than chemotherapy." This particular statement is relevant to a new line of drugs called PARP Inhibitors. This treatment is still in the early trial stages, but apparently could be a successful treatment for cancers with an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.


Olaparib is from the group of drugs known as PARP Inhibitors & is currently being tested on patients with advanced breast, ovarian and prostate cancers caused by mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. PARP stands for poly(adenosine-disposphate-ribose) polymerase, an enzyme which repairs damage done to our DNA. The aim of these drugs is to prevent cells which have been damaged by chemotherapy or genetic mutation from being able to repair themselves, resulting in tumour cells being destroyed.

PARP is found in both healthy cells & cancer cells, it assists in the repairing mechanism of these cells, PARP Inhibitors block PARP-1 from all cells in the body. Cancer cells which have a BRCA gene default are unable to successfully repair themselves without PARP-1, healthy cells have alternative repair mechanisms & can therefore remain relatively undamaged even without PARP-1 & repair themselves using these alternative means.

This drug, when used in conjunction with chemotherapy may reduce the resistance of cancer cells to the chemotherapy.

Side Effects: As this is such a new treatment little is yet known about side effects, however doctors do know that it can cause a drop in blood cell count - causing tiredness, shortness of breath, an increased risk of infection & bleeding problems.

Conclusion: It is a well known fact that chemotherapy drugs poison & kill both healthy & cancerous cells, the overall damage depends on which drug or combination of chemotherapy drugs are used. As the objective of PARP inhibitors is to prevent cells damaged by chemotherapy as well as genetic mutation from from repairing themselves, then it is clear that many, many otherwise healthy cells prior to chemotherapy will in fact be destroyed. The fact that a drop in blood cell count is caused by PARP inhibitors, would indicate that blood cells have been unable to successfully repair themselves following their usage.

PARP-1 is responsible for repairing our DNA & as cancer can actually alter the structure of our DNA, it would appear to be an enzyme with an important role to play in our recovery. Even though doctors involved in the research of PARP inhibitors insist healthy cells are equipped with alternative repair mechanisms, the fact that PARP-1 is present in all our healthy cells does make us wonder that there is probably a very good reason for this. It clearly plays an important role in the functioning of all cells, cancerous or otherwise, I am just not convinced that blocking PARP-1 throughout the whole body is the right answer.

Iressa (gefitinib)

Iressa is what is known as an EGFR Inhibitor, or epidermal growth factor inhibitor. `It only works where mutations of the epidermal growth factor receptor on the surface of cancer cells is detected & is currently used to treat people with locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) or NSCLC that has spread to other areas in the body.

EGF (epidermal growth factor) is a protein found in the body & when it attaches itself to the EGF receptor on the cancer cell, an enzyme called tyrosine kinase (TK) is produced. TK causes a chemical reaction within the cancer cell, which results in its ability to grow & divide. By attaching to the EGFR on the surface of the cancer cell, iressa prevents the attachment of EGF, preventing the cancer from growing or spreading.

Iressa is usually used after the failure of chemotherapy, cancer cells are clever & can become resistant to drugs they are treated with, therefore iressa is usually a second or third line treatment. Cancer patients using iressa can show very promising initial signs, a few have achieved full remission, although this appears to be short lived. In all cases I have read about the cancer inevitably does return, only now to be completely resistant to this drug also.

Side Effects: The side effects appear to be rather severe & include; nausea & vomiting, diarrhoea, skin rashes & irritations, vision problems; blurred vision, itching, sore & infected eyes, loss of hair & loose brittle nails, increased blood pressure with symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, blurred vision & can, in around 1 in 100 people, result in severe lung disease, possibly leading to death.

Conclusion: This drug presents the possibility of 'life extension,' not a cure. The next question is to be regarding the quality of life that can be expected, clearly this drug comes with severe side effects & due to the nature of these side effects it is obvious that damage to the immune system & to healthy cells is incurred.

Research has shown that a relapse, following the initial success of this drug, is almost inevitable. As mentioned above, the second time round the cancer is pretty much completely resistant to this line of treatment & as it is usually only used in the first place following the failure of chemotherapy, then there would appear to be rather limited options then left.

Herceptin (trastuzumab)

Part of a group of cancer drugs called monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies recognise & attach themselves to certain proteins which may be found on the surface of cancer cells & are said to trigger the immune system to attack these cells. These drugs are said to cause little harm to healthy cells, specifically targeting cancer cells.

Herceptin is used where excessive amounts of a protein called HER2 is detected on the surface of breast & stomach cancer cells & attaches itself to the protein, preventing the attachment of the epidermal growth factor (EGF). The EGF, when attached to HER2, triggers a chemical reaction within the cancer cell causing it to grow & divide.The HER2 protein is found to be present in 6-40% of stomach cancer cases & 20-30% of breast cancer cases, such incidences are refered to as being HER2-positive. HER2-positive cases of breast cancer are usually very aggressive & fast growing.

This treatment is only administered either in conjunction with chemotherapy or by those who have already completed two courses of chemotherapy.

Side Effects
Common Side Effects: Fatigue, lasting anything between 6 months - 1 year after treatment, Flu-like Symptoms; nausea, sickness, headache, fever & chills may be experienced but are said to subside after a few hours following treatment & are usually counteracted with further medication. Around half of patients experience an allergic reaction to the drug & symptoms include fever, chills, skin rash, hives, itching, wheezing, headache, sickness, flushes, faintness, breathlessness & difficulty breathing, although this usually reduces across further treatments. Heart Problems such as a fast & irregular heart beat & is therefore unsuitable for patients with a history of heart disease or high blood pressure. Abdominal, chest, joint & muscle pain may also be experienced.

Less Common Side Effects: Reduced White Blood Cell Count which causes an increased risk of bacterial infection, in some cases this may be life-threatening. Symptoms of infection are headaches, feeling cold & shivery, aching muscles, coughing, sore throat, & possibly pain when passing urine. Lung Problems with symptoms such as coughing & respiratory distress, liver problems, possible fertility problems, insomnia & around 1 in 25 patients experience permanent heart damage, or even heart failure.

Conclusion: When considering the above side effects, it seems rather hard to beleive that herceptin causes 'little damage to healthy cells.' Side effects such as these would clearly indicate the complete opposite, as well as severe weakening of the immune system.

That fact that herceptin is only used along side, or following at least two courses of chemotherapy is another very questionable issue. We all know how much suffering is caused through chemotherapy & the side effects of herceptin sound pretty horrific also, yet the two are put together with the likely addition of more medication to counteract some of the side effects experienced. To me this is a good recipe for death of a patient, let alone their cancer. I bet that is how it feels for someone undergoing such treatment; death. So is it really worth it?

Medical Industry figures indicate a 50% increase in the survival rate of those using herceptin against breast cancer; unfortunately just more misleading statistics. The true figure is just 12%.
Additionally, this drug is currently being tested for it's effectiveness against other types of cancer & has actually increased the death rate by 2.5%.

Drugs Kill

Overall Conclusion

It seems to me as though mainstream treatments which cause so much unnecessary suffering & damage to our bodies through their usage should have long ago been a thing of the past. I wonder how many more ways around the obvious solution can they possibly come up with? Drug companies can only make money through drugs, given the advanced scientific means available to them, they must surely be aware of what really cures cancer. As this is something they are unable to 'invent,' it would seem the purpose of their study is to find a long way around a very simple answer, so to be able to 'patent' their end product. The thing is they never have & never will discover a drug with the same cancer fighting capabilities as many natural, readily available products; herbs, plants & even certain foods contain many cancer killing nutrients which have no side effects & are most definitely effective.

Recommended Reading

Anticancer: A New Way of Life
Anticancer: A New Way of Life

A doctors story of how, after the faliure of chemotherapy & radio therapy, he managed to cure himself through nutrition. Excellent book packed with useful tips & information.


The real cure for cancer

Although the vast majority of people would look on someone claiming to know the cure for cancer as some kind of miracle worker, the truth is that there are many, many people out there who do know this. The answer is just too simple for many people to be able to accept. They put their faith in their oncologist, who is trained in 'medical school' on the usage of 'drugs' to treat cancer, they never stop to think that the answer may lie elsewhere & nowhere in the field of drugs.

Any oncologist will undoubtedly act with the best of intention, but if they don't know about, or have any experience in any other form of treatment than drugs then what else can they recommend? Unfortunately even those who do know anything else are not even allowed to tell you about it.

The place to start, for anyone attempting to beat cancer is with 'diet.' A cancer diet is an essential aspect in the recovery from any type of cancer. There are plenty of books available on this subject, as many people have cured their cancer through diet alone. It's a good idea to increase your nutritional intake with supplements, again certain supplements are extremelly effective but to maximise their effectiveness you must use them in conjunction with your cancer diet. A cancer diet not only strengthens the body's immune system & natural defences but through the intake of cancer killing nutrients, directly attacks & kills cancer cells. The cancer diet also 'feeds' healthy cells with all that is good for them while literally 'starving' cancer cells of what they need to function effectively.

Sugar is a key element for cancer cells as they have 20 times more glucose receptors than healthy cells, clearly they need it, so eat no sugar & the cancer cells get no sugar! The cancer diet is, of course far more complex than just cutting out sugar, however there are lots of great books & free information out there to be researched. A naturopath, or herbalist etc. would be an ideal person to speak to, as they can monitor & adjust your diet over time & give you lots of help & advice on this.

What would you do?

In the face cancer, would undergo any of these treatments if your doctor recommended them as your best chance of survival, or extension of your life?

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    • keepitnatural profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Yorkshire, UK

      Thankyou for sharing your experiences, I notice the book you recommend is written by an oncologist & hematologist, I notice that he also considers the spiritual & historical, as well the medical aspects of cancer & I would be very interested to know, as I have not read the book, which of these you felt helped you the most? Was it the vitamins etc. that worked for you in the end?

      It sounds like you have been through a lot, by the way & I would just like to say that I hope you are completely through this now & wish you all the best for the future!

    • profile image 

      8 years ago

      I am a 4 year breast cancer survivor! I have had it all chemotherapy, surgery more chemo with radiation concurrently and finally Femara, vitamins, and supplements. I also had 6 months of Herceptin. We should all read Clifford S.Pukel's book, Cancer and the Human Condition avaiable through Amazon. The book helps us to uderstand this most dreaded disease.

    • keepitnatural profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Yorkshire, UK

      Yes, I know just how you feel, Tatjana-Mihaela. It is sick. Thankyou for your feedback!

    • Tatjana-Mihaela profile image


      8 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

      Whenever I read how medicine is trying to save or kill people (it is not clear what they are exactly doing, or is it? hm...) I start to feel sick. Your Hub is just great! Thank you.

    • keepitnatural profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Yorkshire, UK

      Thanks, Inkwell780, I totally agree.

      Perhaps I should have made a point about the Budwig diet in my article, as it should quite rightly be an integral part of every cancer fighting regime.

      organic cottage cheese + organic flax seed oil in a ratio of 2:1, put in blender & blend for up to 5 mins, adding a teaspoon of organic honey to sweeten. Eat twice a day, every day!

      Thanks again for mentioning this, Inkwell780!

    • Inkwell780 profile image


      8 years ago from Cleveland, OH.

      Hey man! I hear you on the chemo treatment. Why are we still using radioactive treatment for Cancer yet they put a lead lined bib on you in the dentist office for X-rays??? Stupid isn't it? These Godless drug companies want their money and that is all there is to it. It saddens me as I lost my Grandmother three years ago to Ovarian Cancer... My family can be quasi-holistic and suggested Flax seed... Not saying it is a cure but it could have helped I am sure... The Doctor looked at us as if we were crazy... A Dr. Budwig I believe was the name of the person that stood by Flax. It is all a money making scheme. Matt.


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