New drug study looks at slowing deadly breast cancer

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- A brand new study going on in the Valley could soon offer hope against a deadly form of breast cancer.

It is cancer associated with the BRCA gene mutation. You may recall this is the mutation that prompted actress Angelina Jolie to undergo a double mastectomy as a preventative measure.

But when prevention does not work, patients like 33-year-old Kristin may soon have a new weapon to help them fight this cancer.

"My first diagnosis was actually two years ago, and that was eight months after my mom passed away from ovarian cancer,“ she told us.

Like Jolie, Kristin underwent a double mastectomy but only to have the cancer return.

Dr. Mary Cianfrocca tells us Kristin has breast cancer associated with the BRCA gene, and it has spread to other parts of her body.

“Metastatic breast cancer at the present state of our knowledge is usually not a curable disease,” she said. “This type of breast cancer can be resistant to some forms of chemotherapy, making it more urgent to find new therapies for it.”

Cianfrocca is the lead investigator locally for a drug that seems to give chemo a boost.

“So the study agent is a drug called Veliparib,” she explained, “which targets a protein that cancer cells need to use to repair themselves and particularly cancer cells that have a BRCA mutation.”

Kristin is the first Veliparib patient at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Banner Health's Gateway Medical Center.

“They have had some good responses so far,“ Kristin said, “and would like me to see if it would work for me as well.”

Cianfrocca says the current study is looking very specifically at slowing the cancer, which is generally fatal in less than three years.

“Whether it will actually cure that type of breast cancer is obviously the Holy Grail of hope, but what our real hope is that it will help our patients live longer with this type of disease,” Cianfrocca said.

And for Kristin, right now that is some hope she can hold onto.

"I am not going down without a fight," she said.

And Kristin is not fighting alone. Taglio Salon in Scottsdale gave her some pink hair extensions to raise awareness. They are also donating some extensions to help her raise money for breast cancer research.