Breast cancer can spread quickly. Once it reaches vital organs like the brain, it can become difficult — and even risky — to treat.
Now, however, there might be a better way to tackle one form of the deadly disease.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a pill to treat HER2-positive breast cancer, which kills around 50,000 people a year in the United States. According to the Mayo Clinic, about one out of every five breast cancers contain cells with additional copies of the gene responsible for producing the HER2 protein.
The new pill attacks these cancer cells in order to block production of the HER2 protein, which stimulates cancer growth. In other words, researchers say, it takes the “ammunition” out of the cancer cells.
This pill, called Tukysa, (too-KYE-sahi) is intended to be effective for aggressive forms of breast cancer that have spread throughout the body and have resisted other forms of treatment.
A study enrolled a little over 600 participants, half of whom received the breast cancer pill in addition to two other drugs that are used in the current treatment plans for breast cancer. The other study participants received a placebo along with the same two additional anti-cancer medications.
Those who took the new medication saw 45% of its members live for at least two years, whereas the placebo group only saw about 27% of its participants survive. Among the individuals whose cancer had metastasized to the brain, 25% survived over a year. The placebo group did not have any survivors.
The drug is set to become available in the near future, with great hopes worldwide for its effectiveness against this dreaded disease.a