(Memphis, TN) The federal Food and Drug Administration approved a drug on Friday that could change the way many women are treated for breast cancer.
The drug, called Kadcyla, attacks specific cancer cells instead of blasting one's whole body with traditional chemotherapy. As a result, doctors say it has far fewer side effects.
"You don't lose your hair. You're not sick to your stomach," said Dr. Kurt Tauer of the West Clinic.
Tauer and other doctors have participated in the clinical trials for Kacyla for about two years. One of his clients participating in the trial is Lorraine Griffin.
Griffin learned she had breast cancer that had spread to her liver, lymph nodes, and bones. After a year of taking Kadcyla, she has now gotten rid of the cancer in all places except her bones.
"Obviously I didn't lose my hair. You know, it's very emotional for some women," she said.
Griffin has also gone to work throughout all the treatment, only missing days for doctor's visits.
She said co-workers and friends always tell her she doesn't look like she has cancer,
"And I'm going to say, 50 percent of the time, I don't feel like I do either," Griffin said.
Sometimes she feels tired and doesn't have the energy she would like to be an active grandmother, but otherwise feels she has her life back.
"It's the medicine, it's Kurt Tauer, and it's prayer," she said.
Dr. Tauer explained that Kadcyla is a package that latches onto cancer cells.
"Yeah, it's kind of like a magic bullet," he said. "[Kadcyla] gets taken into the cell and only the cancer cell, where that chemotherapy molecule is then activated to go in and kill that cancer cell. So the toxicity to normal cells is almost nil."
Kadcyla is produced by Genentech, which is part of the Roche Group. About one in four women with breast cancer will be eligible for the drug, because it mainly helps people who have advanced stages of breast cancer and have tried other methods with little success. The drug will be available to the public in two to four weeks.