Bakersfield center uses 'game changer' cancer drug
By Caitlin Rearden, Eyewitness News Published: Feb 6, 2014
Dr. Ravi Patel called new breast cancer drug Palbociclib "a game changer."
Palbociclib was developed by University of California, Los Angeles scientists. Bakersfield's Comprehensive Blood & Cancer Center is participating in a clinical trial that began in 2010, testing the effectiveness of the new drug on some breast cancer patients.
The trial is for Stage 4 hormonally positive breast cancer patients, which is about 60 percent of all breast cancer patients. Normally, with this type of cancer, the patient is treated with a Food and Drug Administration-approved hormone drug that would help keep the cancer from spreading by targeting the hormones that cause it, however often times those cells become resistant to the hormone drug. When paired with the hormone drugs, the Palbociclib essentially blocks those pathways where the cancer would spread, thus stopping it. The patients continue to take the drug as long as it is working.
"Patients who were not on the drug had control of their disease only for six months or so, but if they were on Palbociclib, the experimental drug, they had a better chance, almost 24 months or longer for control of their disease," said Patel of Bakersfield's CBCC.
Gloria Zollar, who was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 2002, was in remission for almost eight years when doctors found a new cancer in 2010. This time she had Stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to her bones. In 2002, Zollar had a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. In 2010, she began participating in the clinical trial.
"Chemo is hard," said Zollar. " I mean, you take it, and you're sick for three or four days, and you just get well, and you're back taking it again. Then it's radiation. This is very easy."
Palbociclib has minimal side effects, nothing like chemotherapy.
"I feel fine. I play golf twice a week, sometimes three times with my grandchildren," said Zollar.
Palbociclib is considered a breakthrough drug. In order to get that designation, the drug must prove to be effective and show that it can change the lives of patients. Once it is deemed a breakthrough drug, it is approved much more quickly by the FDA and becomes available to patients.
Zollar said she is very grateful for the CBCC in Bakersfield.
"If you really want to progress and go on with your life, this is your chance. I recommend you take it," she said.
Patel said others who are interested in seeing if they qualify for a clinical trial should call the CBCC at (661) 862-7158 or 322-2206.