Health Beat

Health Beat: New treatment for advanced breast cancer

Health Beat: New treatment for...

TAMPA, Fla. - With a hot pink ride, decked out with lighted wheels, nothing is going to get in the way of mother Sally McGiffin and her daughter, Shannon McGiffin. Not even cancer.

"When we first got diagnosis, we sat and cried maybe half an hour to an hour, and then she looked at me and said this disease is not going to beat me," Sally recalled.

That attitude and a newly-approved FDA drug called ribociclib have kept Shannon's stage-four metastic breast cancer under control.

"It's a miracle. It really is a miracle for me to be able to have survived this long," Shannon said.

Dr. Heather Han, an oncologist at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, said when combined with hormonal therapy, ribociclib stops signals that cancer cells use to grow and divide.

"I'm obviously very excited that this drug finally actually quickly got approved and I'm able to be there to help patients to do better," Han explained.

Han said the ribociclib combination can be used as the first line of defense. The risk of progression or death has been reduced by 44 percent.

"So it's been in clinical trial for several years, but FDA was able to approve it quickly when it showed dramatic improvement of the patients," Han continued.

The side-effects for her have been high blood sugar levels and fatigue.

"I do spend a lot of my time sleeping," Shannon admitted.

For Shannon, it's not a cure, but it has given her precious time with those who matter most. 

Candidates for this drug usually can be patients with newly diagnosed advanced breast cancer, hormone receptor positive and HER2 negative. Patients' EKGs must be monitored in the first few weeks of taking the drug to make sure it doesn't cause any cardiac issues.

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