Medical Moment: Drug might offer hope in fight against metastatic breast cancer

Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 5:33 PM EST
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(WNDU) - Metastatic breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, often the bones, lungs, brain, and liver.

Cancer can come back months, or even years, after a cancer patient’s original diagnosis.

The good news? Doctors now have a new drug for women with metastatic breast cancer.

Tica Hall bought a designer jacket for a very special occasion, one that she thought she might not live to see. Hall survived breast cancer in 2010, she calls it her medical speed bump.

“I went back to work and, you know, was at my job and living my life,” recalled Hall, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Three years ago, she was on a Zoom call and couldn’t stop coughing. It wasn’t COVID-19. The cancer was back.

“My son was a freshman in college at the time,” Hall said. “The first thing I thought of is, ‘I’m not gonna see Gabriel graduate.’ I knew I wasn’t gonna be there. And that is the only thing that makes me cry or get misty-eyed, is not being there for my son.”

Chemo kept the cancer from growing, but then on a visit with her son, she felt a sudden pain in her abdomen. Cancer had spread to her liver.

“I was decompensating medically, getting worse every day,” Hall said. “I was in the hospital, you’re supposed to be getting better, but I was getting worse. They said, ‘Two choices, you can stay here, but you’re not gonna leave the hospital alive. Or you can go home.’”

Hall went home to die. Family and friends flocked to Pittsburgh to say goodbye. She gave away her clothes, designed an urn, then had a service.

“It felt sort of like being at your own funeral because people were saying such nice things. It was really wonderful. I know that sounds really odd, but it is so life-affirming,” Hall said.

Doctors gave her less than a month to live, but then, something that amazed her friends and family happened.

“Tica looks better, and you’re not supposed to look better as you approach death,” Hall remembered.

Hall called her longtime oncologist Dr. Adam Brufsky, who found one last option. In the few weeks she had been home, a new drug had become available for women with her-two metastatic breast cancer, called Enhertu.

“So, it delivers the chemotherapy directly to the cancer cells that express HER2 anywhere in the body,” Dr. Brufsky explained.

Hall gets an infusion of Enhertu every three weeks. For now, it’s keeping the cancer under control.

“I don’t think of as a battle, I don’t, I’m not fighting. I’m thriving. I’m living. I’m on a journey,” Hall finished.

Enhertu is not a cure, but some doctors are calling it a game-changer!