New treatment plan offers hope when breast cancer returns

LOUISVILLE (WAVE) -- Women surviving with recurrent breast cancer -- such as Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of presidential candidate John Edwards -- are becoming more common. In Health Alert, medical reporter Lori Lyle tells us about a new treatment that helps patients manage and control advanced recurrent breast cancer without the side effects of chemo.

Enjoying moments with her husband is a daily grace for margie rogers as she battles breast cancer for the second time.

"Well I was very upset, needless to say. I had just met Raymond the Christmas before and we
were dating," said Margie Rogers, a breast cancer patient.

Margie's living a contended life while managing her breast cancer as a chronic condition.

"When women develop recurrence of breast cancer, you frequently, ultimately get the question,
how much time do I have? And the honest answer is we really have no idea. When we didn't
have therapies, we unfortunately had a very good idea," said Dr. Charles Geyer, Jr, a medical oncologist.

A study aimed at increasing the lifespan for this group compared the chemotherapy drug Xeloda to a combination of Xeloda and Tykerb, a new drug that targets the HER-2 protein.

"There's an activating, almost an electrical signal, that gets amplified through the HER-2 molecule and the Tykerb gets in and cuts that signal off," said Dr. Geyer.

By interrupting that growth signal, the combination improved time without progression of disease by 50%.

"Adding the Tykerb didn't seem to increase side effects to a large degree. So you got both sides: better therapy without a lot of extra toxicity," Dr. Geyer says.

In this maintenance phase, Margie's keeping her expectations level.

"I don't have any illusions about what might be down the line, I don't because it's there. It's not going to go away. But everyday that I get's another day," Margie said.

And each day is a gift to cherish.

Margie takes five Tykerb pills each morning and can do so for as long they help maintain her condition.

The combination treatment of Xeloda and Tykerb received approval from the FDA in March of 2007 for treatment of women with advanced or metastic breast cancer.

Online Reporter:  Lori Lyle

Online Producer: Charles Gazaway