NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There’s new hope for women with advanced stage breast cancer – especially younger women who are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage.
It’s a combination of drugs that allows women with the most common form of breast cancer to live life with their disease.
Bernadette Martinho-Brewer was a healthy 45-year-old. She never expected to hear she had stage four breast cancer.
“Hearing those words changes your world,” she said.
The disease had spread to her liver, making Bernadette’s prognosis bleak. Then she entered a clinical trial designed to stop the growth of cancer cells.
“This type of drug, when added to anti-estrogen therapy, substantially improves outcomes for women who are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer,” said Dr. Sara Hurvitz of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The drug combination had previously been shown to delay disease progression, but a new study from UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center is the first to show that it also improves overall survival, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.
“About 20 percent of breast cancers are diagnosed in women under the age of 50, and when women are diagnosed with breast cancer when they’re younger, often it’s more advanced,” Dr. Hurvitz said.
The study enrolled only premenopausal women under the age of 59.
After 42 months, the survival rate among women who received hormone therapy alone was 46 percent, compared to 70 percent among women who were also given the cancer-inhibiting drug Ribociclib.
“Women are living longer. Period. Their overall survival is better,” Dr. Hurvitz said.
The treatment allows women with advanced, incurable forms of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer to live with the disease much longer and without harsh side effects.
“Yes, I have metastatic breast cancer. Yes, I have to live with it. But people live with diabetes; people live with a lot of things. I just do what I need to do. I keep living,” Bernadette said.
This isn’t a cure, but giving young women even a few extra years can mean being there for significant life events.
The cancer-inhibiting drugs are now being tested in patients diagnosed in earlier stages in hopes it can prevent their cancer from coming back after they’re in remission.