In January of 2003, Kathy felt a lump in her right breast. After seeking medical advice, a biopsy was performed and her worst fears were confirmed. Kathy, a 45-year-old mother of three, had aggressive breast cancer. When she went for surgery, however, things went from bad to worse. Kathy had metastatic disease with documented involvement of the liver.
Despite advances in breast cancer management, metastatic disease is still considered incurable. For that reason, the doctors who were managing Kathy faced a serious dilemma. Should they use strong combinations of chemotherapy to hope against the odds that they could eliminate the disease in the liver, or recognizing the low likelihood of cure, manage Kathy with mild treatments, hoping to preserve the quality of the time she had left?
Having known of the work of Dr. Robert Nagourney, director of Rational Therapeutics in Long Beach, CA, Kathy asked her physicians in Cincinnati to send a portion of her cancer to the California based laboratory. She then traveled to California for an opinion with Dr. Nagourney. After a lengthy review of the options, Dr. Nagourney explained that her highly favorable drug sensitivity profile measured in the test tube offered a rationale for strong drug combinations. Dr. Nagourney reiterated to Kathy at the time of their meeting that many physicians would prefer “milder” therapies. When asked whether she wanted to try for the best possible outcome with stronger combinations, Kathy said, in no uncertain terms, that she wanted to “Go for it!”
Working in close collaboration with Kathy’s Cincinnati based oncologist, with whom Dr. Nagourney had previously shared patients, a series of treatments incorporating the best possible drugs and combinations for Kathy was administered. The response was dramatic, with complete resolution of all detectable disease. Today Kathy remains in complete remission on a mild maintenance therapy with the monoclonal antibody, Herceptin.