Concerns About Breast Cancer Drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration  is considering revoking the approval of a  drug used to treat advanced breast cancer. The agency says , while one  study showed that Avastin extended patients lives by five and a half months, follow-up testing showed that it was much less effective .

Some patients,  including a local woman , with stage-four breast cancer are worried.  Last year,  we introduced you to Lisa Baum, a Cambria County woman diagnosed with  breast cancer at the age of 32.  Her  disease progressed  to stage four when she had to stop treatment after becoming pregnant .

Now 39, Lisa's  been in treatment for the disease for most of the time since then.  She's still undergoing chemotherapy and has also experienced radiation and multiple surgeries.  She's had both breasts removed as well as her ovaries, and suffered a broken hip, caused by thinning bones, due to chemo drugs.

For the past year and half, Lisa's been taking Avastin, along   with other chemo drugs.  When she heard about the F.D.A.'s possible actions, she called her oncologist, Dr. Ibrahim Sbeitan, at Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, saying, "hey,  can they take this from me?  It's working.  What am i going to do?"

Dr. Sbeitan reassured her and in an interview with WTAJ said,  "in her case she did respond nicely on it , so we will maintain it in her case. Other patients who have responded on it should be maintained."  According to Dr. Sbeitan, Lisa's also taking other medications that are helping to keep her cancer under control.

He does agree that  overall,  clinical trials don't find Avastin an effective treatment for advanced breast cancer.  Still, Dr. Sbeitan said  he has plenty to offer patients in that situation. 

Genetic and other testing helps him choose the best treatment.  As he explained,  "right now,  we have targeted treatments. We have hormonal treatments and we have chemo treatments. Every patient when they  come with breast cancer,  the treatment is tailored according to the breast cancer itself."

His main goal is keeping patients with advanced breast cancer alive, changing treatment when the cancer shows signs of activity.  Lisa said, "he and I  have agreed to treat this as a manageable disease, not as a curable disease and not a disease that's going to take my life from me in the next two to three months."

And it's a busy life for Lisa and her family,  with the kids into sports and gymnastics but , this weekend,  helping her team , The Pink Panthers get ready for the Making Strides for Breast Cancer Walk at Penn State Altoona.

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