Study: Pill can help stop spread of cancer

December 6, 2011 10:00:00 PM PST
It's being called a "game changer" when it comes to fighting breast cancer. Researchers at M.D. Anderson here in Houston are testing a pill that can actually stop resistant cancer cells from dividing and it's extending the lives of women with advanced breast cancer.

Two years ago, Rachel Midgett was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. Sunday, she ran a half marathon. She credits her good health in part to this M.D. Anderson study drug called Everolimus.

"You would not know I have cancer if you just saw me walking on the street," Midgett said.

Midgett, who is 39 now, works full time. She's been taking Everolimus for nine months.

"That's nine months with no progression of my liver lesions," Midgett said. "In fact it's been shrinking since Day One I've been on this treatment."

M.D. Anderson Oncologist Dr. Jennifer Litton says 33 percent of the women who combined Everolimus with Exemestane saw a benefit.

"Instead of just trying to kill tumor cells, we're trying to kill tumor cells and stop them from becoming resistant to these treatments and we're trying to do it all at the same time," Dr. Litton said.

When chemotherapy kills cancer cells, often it doesn't kill all of them, some are resistant. The drug Everolimus comes in and stops the resistant cancer cells from continuing to divide and spread.

The study found that Everolimus helped stop the progression of advanced breast cancer for an additional four months with very few side effects. And what has doctors here excited is that it did it in a new way and they believe there's great potential for more drugs like it. It's now used in kidney cancer, and the type of pancreatic cancer that killed former Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

"I've never been more hopeful in cancer care," Dr. Litton said.

Midgett says other than the early menopause, the side effects of the combination of drugs are minor.

"You know a treatment's really, really amazing when I even forget I have cancer," she said.

M.D. Anderson researchers say they want to use Everolimus in breast cancer at an earlier stage. The hope is that cancer could be stopped before women have to undergo the most toxic forms of chemotherapy.

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