Martha DeMore looked restless Thursday as she sat in the infusion room at Augusta Oncology Associates.
“I probably sit still longer here than I do the rest of the day,” she said jokingly as she waited for her chemotherapy to begin.
DeMore is battling a recent recurrence of her breast cancer with a new drug that is causing a buzz in breast cancer treatment circles. DeMore is the first at the practice to get Kadcyla, or ado-trastuzumab emtansine, which combines the antibody-targeted treatment Herceptin with an additional drug toxic to breast cancer cells.
“It is directed to the tumor site,” said Dr, Alice David, DeMore’s oncologist. “It is able to shrink the tumor. It is able to slow the disease progression and prolong survival as well.”
Compared to the standard treatment for those, such as David, who are no longer helped by Herceptin, it increased progression-free survival by about three months and increased overall survival by about six months, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Pam Anderson, the program coordinator for cancer services at University Hospital, recently returned from a meeting of the National Consortium of Breast Centers.
“Every speaker mentioned this drug,” she said.
Kadcyla, which had been clinically tested under the name T-DM1, was approved by the FDA on Feb. 22, and DeMore started on it less than a week
Her cancer had already spread to her liver when she was diagnosed in 2004, but after the original treatment “everything went away,” DeMore said. She stayed on Herceptin until the cancer came back a couple of months ago.
“We were waiting for the (drug) to be approved by the FDA,” DeMore said. “Dr. David was really excited and hopeful that it would be approved soon.”
David said she hopes the targeted nature of the treatment means less damage to healthy tissue and thus fewer side effects than the previous treatments.
That’s important to a patient like DeMore, who has a very active lifestyle, David said.
Though the “Herceptin did its job,” she thinks the cancer figured out a way around it and is thankful there is something new to combat it.
“It’s a good thing they keep working on it,” DeMore said.