Doctors say this new breast cancer breakthrough is the most powerful in a decade, especially for the one in five women whose tumors carry excessive amounts of protein known as HER2. In the study, 6500 women with this form of cancer were separated into groups. Some took Herceptin after normal chemotherapy treatments and cut the risk of relapse by 33%. For those who took Herceptin during their chemo, it prevented more than half of all breast tumors from coming back at 52%. "This is tremendous," says Tyler Oncologist Dr. Svetislava Vukelja. She says this is great news for her patients with the early stage breast cancer. "Now we tell them listen we could do something about it. So that's very exciting. It's like a little package that you forgot to open. And now you find it. And there's a little treasure in it. And it's more than you expected." 42-year-old Katie Raney was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and agreed to take Herceptin as part of the study. "I feel perfectly healthy, like I did prior to finding the cancer," says Raney. But taking Herceptin comes with a down side. One major side effect is heart damage. "We'll follow through with my cardiologist, if there's a problem that arises then we'll stop," says Raney. Dr. V says the pros far outweigh the cons and news of this study couldn't have come at a better time, for breast cancer awareness month. "We're aware of breast cancer every month here in our cancer center. But this has been a bonus, this is extra," says Dr. V.
The cost of taking Herceptin over a year's time is $48,000. While some are referring to Herceptin as a cure, some doctors say it's too soon at this time to use that term.