The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new breast cancer treatment that could impact nearly half of all patients, and we were proudly involved in the process that led to this medical breakthrough!
“We were involved in a clinical trial called the DESTINY-Breast04 trial that looked at the use of conventional chemotherapy versus this new drug, Enhertu, in patients considered HER2-low,” Stephen Dyar, MD, an oncologist at the Bon Secours St. Francis Cancer Center, explains.
HER2 is a protein that contributes to how breast cells grow. When it is overexpressed, it can cause breast cancer tumors to grow more rapidly. In the past, patients have been classified as HER2-positive or HER2-negative. However, medical experts are finding it’s not so simple.
“Breast cancer cells actually exist on a continuum – a spectrum of HER2 expression,” Dr. Dyar continues. “There are some patients that are extremely HER2-high and some patients that are totally HER2-negative. However, there’s this big subgroup that’s considered HER2-low, which is to say that they have some levels of HER2 but were traditionally considered negative because they didn’t respond to traditional HER2-targeting treatments.”
The new drug, Enhertu, is a targeted therapy that attacks cancerous cells while causing less damage to healthy cells. Essentially, it sends doses of chemo directly to cancer cells and specifically attacks cells with the HER2 protein.
“This allows us to minimize side effects while maximizing the response of the tumor, so we’re seeing much better results that we ever have historically,” Dr. Dyar shares. “It’s very exciting, because it showed those patients benefitted more from the Enhertu than they did from traditional chemotherapy and established that as a new standard of care or treatment option for HER2-low patients.”
In fact, our ministry has already started using the treatment outside of the clinical trial setting. And because the health system took part in the trial, Dr. Dyar said his patients were benefitting from the drug even before it was approved by the FDA.
“I think a lot of people feel clinical trials are something you have to travel for, but this demonstrates that right here in Greenville – at Bon Secours – we can offer these clinical trials that are literally practice changing to our patients, so they can access these drugs well before they’re approved by the FDA or are available to the general public,” he adds.
Our ministry was also involved in the DESTINY-Breast01 trial that led to the approval of the Enhertu drug for patients that were HER2-positive. For both trials, we were the only site in the Carolinas to be involved. Dr. Dyar says these are just some examples of the various clinical trials the St. Francis Cancer Center can offer through partnerships with the National Cancer Institute and various pharmaceutical companies.
“We do wonderful things with clinical trials and even standard care here in Greenville,” he says. “I always tell patients if it were my family member – my wife or my parent – I would absolutely want them to be treated here in Greenville because of all the options we have available for patients.”
Learn more about the cancer care and oncology services we offer at Bon Secours.