Major Breakthrough In Breast Cancer Treatment

Adriana Jenkins was just 31 years old when she learned she had breast cancer.

"My cancer was extremely aggressive and I wanted to do everything I possibly could to make sure it didn't come back," said Jenkins.

After a surgery and chemotherapy her doctors added something different, a drug called Herceptin. Dr. Sveislava Vukelja used the drug in clinical trials at the Tyler Cancer Center.

"It blocks production of the protein that makes it grow," says Dr. Vukelja.

Herceptin is normally used to treat patients after their breast cancer has returned. But researchers asked: Why wait? Why not give the drug much earlier, and actually prevent the cancer from coming back? And it did just that. The study found the drug, when combined with chemotherapy, cut the risk of cancer returning dramatically.

"By 52 or 54 percent. In my opinion literally cuts it in half," says Dr. Vukelja.

The drug isn't for every breast cancer patient though, only ones with a specific, and often deadly form of the disease.

"Only 30 percent of breast cancer will only have this gene. 70 percent of patients will not have it and will not benefit from it," says Dr. V.

About four percent of patients on the drug developed a weakened heart muscle. But many say the benefits far outweigh the risk. Adriana Jenkins says it saved her life.