A new breast cancer drug may help prevent the disease from getting worse, a study shows—and some experts are seeing major benefits ahead. Palbociclib almost doubled the time patients survived without seeing their disease progress, Reuters reports, noting that the women in the study had the most common form of the cancer. Women treated with the drug plus a hormone drug called letrozole lived 20.2 months on average before the cancer worsened, compared to 10.2 months among those who took just letrozole. Subjects also seemed to live slightly longer overall on the drug, but the results on that front weren't statistically significant, the New York Times reports.
Still, "the magnitude of benefit we are seeing is not something commonly seen in cancer medicine studies," the study's lead investigator tells the Times, calling the findings "groundbreaking." The drug works by targeting enzymes used in cell division, the newspaper explains. Pfizer has high hopes for palbociclib as a future blockbuster drug. If it's approved, it could see yearly sales of some $5 billion, according to analysts. The research on 165 subjects "is a small Phase 2 trial—not tiny, but not the kind of study that would typically lead to a change in practice," notes an expert. Still, if the FDA offers quick approval, palbociclib could be on the market next year, the Times reports. (Meanwhile, insurers are panicking over a $1,000-a-day wonder drug.)