LOS ANGELES (CBS) Doctors are reporting two potential breakthrough drugs for treating advanced breast cancer. One is able to reach tumors that have spread to the brain the other has been described as a guided missile, a drug that's able to bring chemotherapy directly to the cancer cell.
Dikla Benzeevi's type of cancer is known as HER2-positive, which tends to be more aggressive and is more likely to spread and come back after treatment.
"I have been on 15 cancer drugs and I have had multiple surgeries -- spine surgery, lung surgery , breast surgery. I took radiation," Benzeevi said. "I am grateful to still be here but it's a lot of time and effort and dealing with side effects and quality of life issues."
She enrolled in a new clinical trial at UCLA testing an experimental drug known as T-DXd.
"It's an antibody which specifically targets an aggressive form of breast cancer, and linked to that antibody is a very potent chemotherapy, so the chemotherapy is directly delivered to the cancer cells," said the study's author, Dr. Sara Hurvitz with the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The findings, which looked at more than 200 patients, were made public at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
"We saw over 60 percent of patients have a response and the progression free survival, meaning how long patients were able to live without their disease growing was over 16 months," Hurvitz said.
Some patients suffered lung inflammation as a side effect, which Hurvitz says can be managed with close monitoring and careful patient selection.
Benzeevi said she experienced nausea and fatigue but that improved as she continued treatment. Her cancer is now stable. "Hasn't grown, it hasn't shrunk but there are no new tumors and it's staying stable, which is a good sign," she said.
She says new treatments translate to more time for cancer patients, which is what everyone wants.
The other drug that is showing promise targets breast cancer that has spread to the brain. Researchers treated more than 300 advanced breast cancer patients with brain tumors and found one-quarter were alive a year later and their tumors did not get worse.