Former Cancer Nurse Fights the Disease Herself

Advances in the treatment of breast cancer are happening daily, and one area that shows great promise is the individualization of care.  I met a Henderson woman who's in a unique position to realize the extent that breast cancer care has improved.

Sixty-nine-year-old Sharon Fuller is well aware of how far cancer care has advanced. She was a cancer nurse long before she became a cancer patient.  She has stage four metastatic breast cancer that's HER-2 positive. She told me, "Being an oncology nurse, I knew stage four was not good and when I first practiced, when you had stage four, you died within a year."   

Sharon did a lot of research to find Dr Mary Ann Allison of Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada, one of the best in the field. Dr Allison put Sharon on chemotherapy of Taxotere and Herceptin. After a year, Sharon was exhausted, bald, and the cancer had spread again. Dr Allison then enrolled Sharon in a clinical trial of the experimental drug TDM-1.

Dr Mary Ann Allison, MD, FACP told me that T-DM1 "is really based on the HER-2 molecule that certain breast cancers have and it's designed to use that molecule to get into the breast cancer cell and kill it."  

T-DM1 combines Herceptin with a so-called "smart bomb" molecule. Because it zeroes in on the cancer cell, it leaves the surrounding cells healthy.

For Sharon, the clinical trial has given her back her strength and energy. She said, "There are so many treatments now. It's not like you're gonna die as soon as you get it. There (are) some cancers, yes, you may (die) but I'm not planning on dying right now."  

T-DM1 is wrapping up clinical trials currently, and the next step is seeking FDA approval.

Dr. Allison summed up the new direction that she and other cancer researchers and physicians are heading these days, "We will be moving further away from the old tried and true chemotherapy as time goes on because we'd really like to personalize our chemotherapy. It's really exciting."  

You can learn more about the TDM-1 therapy here:
http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/03/health/breast-cancer-drug/index.html

And read about Dr. Allison on this website:
http://www.cccnevada.com/our-physicians/mary-ann-allison-m-d-facp/


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