Lifewatch: Chemotherapy replacement

Reported by Claire Hosmann - email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

LOS ANGELES, CA (WECT) - One out of ten women with breast or ovarian cancer can blame their disease on their genes.

Now, there is a new experimental drug that's making huge strides in tackling hereditary cancers.

Over the past decade, Barbara Shellow battled breast and a form of ovarian cancer.

"I'll have to get through this because I've got the family that I want to see grow up," said Shellow.

Barbara had a genetic profile done which revealed a defect that predisposes her to cancer.

The defect was found in genes called BRCA One and BRCA Two.  Up to 80% of women with the problem will get cancer because their abnormal cells cannot repair damaged DNA.

Non-specific treatment like chemotherapy, kills both cancer cells and healthy ones, but an investigational drug works by only targeting the tumor, allowing normal cells to do their job and fix tainted DNA.

"This is an example, I think, of the most exciting development in cancer therapy," said Dr. William Audeh, a Medical Oncologist at Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute.

Nearly 60% of the women responded well to the drug, and many saw their cancer go away.

"Some of these women have been in remission for over a year -- something that would not be possible with any available chemotherapy," said Audeh.

After a year and a half of treatment, Shellow is cancer-free, and gladly takes the pills over chemo.

She hopes she hasn't passed on the cancer gene, but if she does, this could be the answer to her family disease.

People with ovarian cancer and the BRCA defect can still enroll in the last stage of the drug trial at medical centers across the country.

Doctors are hopeful the drug will be available to the public within two years.