Humor aside, they have come to the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center with the earnest hope of preserving their lives, if not their breasts, from the ravages of deadly breast cancers termed "inflammatory" and "locally advanced" tumors -- that often resist traditional treatments. Sixty to 70 percent of its victims do not survive past five years. Twenty-one women came to Duke for a unique phase I trial in search of better odds.
Propped on pillows and serenaded by the music of their choice, the women lie upon a massage-like table for one hour as radio frequency energy warms their breasts, which lie in a sunken pool of water. The heat triggers the chemotherapy they have just received to settle inside the tumor, where it trickles out of its protective coating -- a tiny fat bubble called a liposome and attacks the tumor's genetic machinery.
The body's normal tissues remain unheated, so the drug is not preferentially delivered there. Hence, the drugs slowly leak out into normal tissues over a period of three or four weeks long enough for the liver and spleen to blunt its toxic side effects.
In several cases, the treatment has remarkably destroyed all visible signs of the tumor. In others, the treatment has saved women's breasts from surgical removal. In every case, it has halted the tumor from growing, said Blackwell, a Duke medical oncologist who runs the protocol with a team of a dozen colleagues.
The results are far more dramatic than any of the team envisioned, based on their pre-clinical studies, said Blackwell, who presents their phase I clinical trial data on May 18 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Orlando. Twenty-one women with newly diagnosed breast canc
Contact: Rebecca Levine
Duke University Medical Center