Marsha Brekke had a form of breast cancer called HER2+. It's the most aggressive type of the disease and affects about 25% of all patients. She tried different kinds of chemotherapy and the popular drug Herceptin, but the cancer eventually spread to her liver.
"It was my last chance. It's very scary when you're sitting in you're doctor's office, and you know you are terminal," says Brekke.
The doctors gave her Tykerb and after six months, her tumors had all disappeared. Eighteen months later, she is still cancer free.
"This drug was a Godsend. That's the only way I can explain it," says Brekke.
Dr. Arielle Lee with the Tyler Hematology and Oncology Center says until now, Herceptin has been the last line of defense for patients with the aggressive form of breast cancer. She says the new drug offers new hope.
"We have been waiting for this drug to be available for many of our patients who have already progressed on Herceptin and are waiting for this drug to be available for them. The women who have become resistant to the Herceptin now have a chance of getting another remission with the Tykerb," says Dr. Lee.
Right now, the drug is only approved for those patients who are resistant to Herceptin, but Dr. Lee hopes it will eventually be available to all HER2+ patients because she says it's cheaper, easier to take and has fewer side affects than its competitor.
In the future, researchers predict targeted therapies like Herceptin and Tykerb might be combined allowing even more breast cancer patients to beat the disease.