Researchers test experimental breast cancer drug

Published On: May 13 2013 04:30:40 PM EDT

LOS ANGELES -

Researchers are studying an experimental drug for advanced breast cancer that may be able to slow the spread of cancer cells without the hair loss, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.

When Janet Klein had a double mastectomy, she thought her fight against breast cancer was over.

"I thought I was completely done, never have to think about it again," said Klein.

But last year, the cancer came back, and, this time, it had spread to her hip bone.

"That was really shocking," said Klein.  "All of a sudden, I didn't know what was going to be on the table for me at that point."  

That's when Klein found out about an experimental breast cancer drug that was being tested at UCLA to treat advanced hormone receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer.  The new compound is called palbociclib.  It targets a protein that causes cancer cells to spread.

"We're essentially putting the breaks on cell proliferation and causing these tumor cells to stop growing,"  researcher Dr. Richard Finn.

In initial tests, the drug helped to stop the spread of cancer from 7 1/2 months without the drug, to 26 months with the drug.   

"The results were really ground breaking," said Finn.  "We saw a dramatic improvement in the time it took for these women's breast cancers to progress.  Unlike chemotherapy drugs, which are just generic poisons to cells.  This drug is very well tolerated, it does not cause hair loss, it does not cause nausea and vomiting."

The FDA was impressed enough to designate palbociclib a "breakthrough therapy," a status that helps speed up the review and approval process.

Klein got the drug more than three years ago.  Today, she's cancer free.

"It's gone, there's no evidence of it in the scans.  I'm one of the luckiest people on the planet," said Klein.

To learn more about the palbociclib clinical trial, click here.

To find out about clinical trials happening across the country, click here.

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