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New medicine reduces the risk of breast cancer recurring by 50 percent, researchers say

RICHMOND, Va. -- Thirty-eight-year-old Ticiana Machado is going through her second round of chemotherapy. The wife and mother of two was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago.

“How you doing? How you feeling?” said Dr. Mary Helen Hackney.

Ticiana's doctor Mary Helen Hackney with VCU Massey Cancer Center says a new drug combo may help patients like Ticiana who’s diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancer.

The cells in that type of cancer can grow faster and those patients are at a higher risk of their cancer coming back after they've had chemo and surgery.

“Ideally, when we finish all this there's no cancer left, but if we did find a little bit left, then this new medicine will be the way to go,” Dr. Hackney explained to Ticiana.

Ticiana Machado

That new medicine will take center stage at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Massey Dr. Charles Geyer leads the global trial known as KATHERINE. He's presenting his findings this week.

The trial tested the efficacy and safety of the antibody-drug conjugate trastuzumab emtansine (also known as T-DM1 and Kadcyla), which is a combination of the standard FDA-approved drug trastuzumab (also known as Herceptin) and a chemotherapy drug called DM1.

T-DM1 is currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat patients with metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer. Five years into the clinical trial involving more than 1400 patients, researchers found the drug combo can reduce the risk of cancer recurring by 50 percent.

"The trastuzumab by itself works great. The chemo was too toxic to give by itself, but when you link them together, it’s very well tolerated and very effective in fighting the cancer,” said Dr. Hackney.

This new drug combo will now be part of the care in treating breast cancer patients. Doctors will continue to follow these patients for another five years.

Reba Hollingsworth and Stephanie Rochon

Reba Hollingsworth and Stephanie Rochon

On the 6th of the month, CBS 6 and VCU Massey Cancer Center remind women to contact their buddy to remind them to conduct a monthly breast self-exam. If it is time, you should also schedule an annual clinical breast exam and mammogram, which are key to early detection.