Health Team

Duke treats body, spirit for cancer patients

Posted June 6, 2012 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated June 7, 2012 5:50 a.m. EDT

— Breast cancer treatments take everything a woman has to endure – physically and emotionally.
That's why it's important to find helpful ways of coping.

At the Duke Cancer Institute Tuesday, patients got pampering from some local boutiques to go along with their treatment.

"Spa day is a perfect example of adding those extra moments of caring that allow that sense of rejuvenation for our patients and family members," said Duke's Carolyn Carpenter.

They offered massage, reflexology and advice on wigs for those whose treatments cause hair loss. 

There is good news on that front in the form of new research as well.

Tamara Nuckols comes to Duke every three weeks to get Herceptin. She has HER-2 positive breast cancer, an aggressive form that affects 20 percent of patients. It was also the subject of a game-changing study for a drug called T-DM1, an antibody-drug conjugate that some people compare to a smart bomb.

Dr. Kimberly Blackwell, the lead author of a large global study of T-DM1, says the drug has two benefits: It binds to the cancer cell then kills it, and the side effects are less serious.

"Women on this new treatment don't lose their hair," she said. "They don't look sick and coming once every three weeks to get a treatment allows them to live their lives."

Because the drug only targets cancer cells, use of T-DM1 significantly increases survival.

"I was very excited because that would be a drug that I really will benefit from," said Nuckols. 

At Duke on Tuesday, she could get all in a soothing atmosphere that also benefited the spirit.