New Breast Cancer Therapy At Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center
Boosts Drugs' Effects, Dramatically Shrinks Tumors
DURHAM, N.C. -- Patients of Kimberly Blackwell, M.D., jokingly
call their treatment table the "booby Jacuzzi." The name may
be a bit crass, but then a close brush with mortality entitles
these women to call the life-saving contraption whatever they
Humor aside, they have come to the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center
with the earnest hope of preserving their lives, if not their
breasts, from the ravages of deadly breast cancers -- termed
"inflammatory" and "locally advanced" tumors -- that often resist
traditional treatments. Sixty to 70 percent of its victims do not
survive past five years.
Twenty-one women came to Duke for a unique
phase I trial in search of better odds.
Propped on pillows and serenaded by the music of their choice,
the women lie upon a massage-like table for one hour as radio
frequency energy warms their breasts, which lie in a sunken pool
of water. The heat triggers the chemotherapy they have just received
to settle inside the tumor, where it trickles out of its protective
coating -- a tiny fat bubble called a liposome -- and attacks
the tumor's genetic machinery.
The body's normal tissues remain unheated, so the drug is not
preferentially delivered there. Hence, the drugs slowly leak
out into normal tissues over a period of three or four weeks
-- long enough for the liver and spleen to blunt its toxic side
In several cases, the treatment has remarkably destroyed all visible
signs of the tumor. In others, the treatment has saved women's
breasts from surgical removal. In every case, it has halted the
tumor from growing, said Blackwell, a Duke medical oncologist
who runs the protocol with a team of a dozen colleagues.
The results are far more dramatic than any of the team envisioned,
based on their pre-clinical studies, said Blackwell, who presents
their phase I clinical trial data on May 18 at the American Society
of Clinical Oncology in Orlando.
Twenty-one women with newly
diagnosed breast cancers participated in the 12-week hyperthermia
trial, funded by the National Cancer Institute.
Several cancer centers in the U.S. have ongoing clinical trials on hyperthermia and chemotherapy. Ask your doctor if s/he knows of any studies in your area. If you'd like to find out whether you can participate in the clinical trial at Duke University, call for an appointment: (919) 668-6610.
Thanks to www.breastcancer.org for this phone number.
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