Local News

Herceptin May Help Patients In Early Stages Of Breast Cancer

Posted May 26, 2005 2:14 a.m. EDT

— A National Cancer Institute study shows the drug Herceptin, given with chemotherapy, could help about 30 percent of breast cancer cases. It is designed to kill the most aggressive type of cancer cells and leave healthy tissue alone.

Louise Knox's battle with breast cancer began six years ago when she detected it through self-examination. After a lumpectomy and chemotherapy, she thought she had it beat, until last summer.

"I had a second recurrence. The cancer traveled to my bone," she said.

Oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Crane added a new weapon to her regimen of chemotherapy -- Herceptin. He compares it to smart bombs that can take out single buildings. Herceptin is an engineered molecule that attacks a specific type of fast-growing abnormal cells -- which affects one out of every four breast cancer patients.

"It is exactly what we would want our immune system to do," he said.

A study from the National Cancer Institute found women given Herceptin were at 52 percent lower risk of recurrence. Until now, the drug was reserved for women with advanced stage breast cancer, but it shows promise for helping early-stage patients as well.

The treatment has helped Knox.

"She's had a fairly dramatic response," Crane said.

Unlike some chemotherapies, it does not cause hair loss, but it does have its side effects.

There is a risk of heart injury or allergic reactions. Neither of those symptoms have happened to Knox. She said she is glad she's got the extra weapon and stays "in-the-know" of new advances.

"Be informed. Knowledge is powerful," Knox said.