Groundbreaking New Breast Cancer Drug Could Stop the Disease in Its Tracks

When it comes to breast cancer, many of us understand and are willing to accept the fact that a miracle cure may not be in the cards at the moment. With that said, news of any drug that could help patients by stalling the disease so that it doesn't rapidly progress is pretty great. Imagine being able to stop time -- if only for a few months -- while docs continue to work on finding new and additional treatments to combat your disease. Kind of challenges your notion of miraculous, doesn't it?

An experimental breast cancer drug called palbociclib is currently undergoing studies because it reportedly can nearly double the amount of time patients live with the disease without it spreading and getting worse. Here's the skinny on it.

  • Palbociclib slows the growth of cancer cells by preventing two enzymes responsible for dividing cells from working. Put simply: If evil cancer cells can't split, they can't spread.
  • In a clinical trial, the drug, which is being manufactured by Pfizer, lengthened the amount of time women with breast cancer either lived or saw their cancer worsen by about 10 months -- from 10.2 months for those who had not taken the drug to 20.2 months for those who agreed to try it.
  • Disappointingly, the survival rate for patients who tried palbociclib was not all that great. Those receiving the drug lived an average of 37.5 months, while those who didn't take it lived 33.3 months. Lots of people may dismiss this data because it isn't that impressive -- but I'm going to guess anyone suffering from a disease wouldn't pooh-pooh the chance to live even one extra day.
  • Even though it's being hailed as a "breakthrough" drug, palbociclib is only in the midstages of being tested. But, assuming the FDA approves it quickly, the drug could appear on the market as early as next year.
  • Pfizer isn't the only drug manufacturer to develop this treatment. Companies like Novartis and Eli Lilly & Co are also in the process of testing their own drugs that promise to stall cancer or shrink tumors. If there's any reason we should be thrilled companies are competing against one another, this is it. Any company that can eventually rid the planet of this terrible disease deserves to be rewarded.

While the realist in me doesn't want to get my hopes up yet about a drug that hasn't proven to significantly prolong patients' survival rates, the fact that researchers have developed ways to stall the disease is an amazing step forward. And the more companies that jump on board and dedicate research and money to developing these drugs, the better. Let's cross our fingers and hope a real breakthrough -- one that squashes the disease -- results from this small, but extremely positive, step forward.

Does this new drug make you feel hopeful that a "cure" for breast cancer is possible?


Image via Paul Falardeau/Flickr

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