To a large extent, you trust your oncologist with your life. When you’re going through the stress of surgery, pathology and figuring out a treatment plan, there’s no way for a lay person to adequately get up to speed. And some people don’t want to, or can’t. They prefer to leave it to the docs.
At UCSF, Dr. Hope Rugo put me on a regimen of Carboplatin and Taxotere times six, plus the monoclonal antibody Herceptin every three weeks for a year.
Even at the time, I knew that lots of women with aggressive cancer pathology like mine had to endure a class of chemo drugs called “Anthracyclines.” Some of the most effective cancer drugs ever devised, anthracyclines were derived from streptomycin bacteria. They interfere with DNA and RNA transcription, thus balling up the cancer cells’ attempts to multiply. The most common of these drugs in breast cancer treatment is “Adriamycin.” Patients call it the “red devil,” because it’s red and causes debilitating side effects, especially damage to the heart. This is a big problem if you’re also taking Herceptin, which also affects the heart. What a drag to be cured of cancer but then have horrible heart problems. I was glad not to have to endure that.
This week, UCLA docs publish a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that says treatment of early stage breast cancer with Carboplatin, Taxotere and Herceptin is just as effective as treatment with Adriamycin and Herceptin, which has been a standard treatment up to now. So, not only do I get to avoid major heart damage, I have a good shot in the recurrence sweepstakes.
Thanks, Dr. Rugo.