Medical Minute: Breast Cancer Treatment

Thousands of women with breast cancer have an improved chance of survival thanks to a new way of giving chemotherapy. This new therapy could revolutionize not only breast cancer treatment, but many other cancer treatments as well.

It's been a year and a half since Sari Sunshine was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I felt some pain in my right breast, and I knew it wasn't a normal pain, that it needed to be looked at," says Sari.

Doctors found a six centimeter tumor that was quickly removed. Chemotherapy followed, but not in its usual form. Typically, chemotherapy is given every three weeks. Sari was treated every two weeks. It's called dose-dense chemotherapy. It not only cuts treatment from six to four months, it boosts survival rates by 31 percent.

"By shortening the interval between chemotherapy, you may be able to increase tumor cell kill and hence increase the chance of cure," says Dr. Marc Citron.

Until now, killing tumor cells has meant killing healthy white cells, too. A drug called neupogen, taken with chemotherapy, solves the problem, giving white cells a boost.

"Not only can you shorten the whole period of chemotherapy treatment, which may save the patient approximately two months of chemotherapy, but also you're lowering the risk of infection and hospitalization."

The infection risk is actually lower for dose-dense therapy.

"I have my life back, and hopefully it's just a thing of the past. My prognosis is good."

For more information, contact:

Mark Citron
Alberteinstein College of Medicine

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