The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new breast cancer drug thanks, in part, to a clinical trial done at the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center in Bakersfield. The drug is called Kadcyla.
It's shown to delay the path of an aggressive form of breast cancer by six to eight months.
CBCC's Medical Director, Dr. Ravi Patel, says it is one of a growing number of cancer treatments getting F.D.A. approval thanks to successful clinical trials.
"Fortunately, patients had access to this particular drug without having to travel out," explained Dr. Patel.
Dr. Patel is familiar with the so-called "designer drug" because part of its path to FDA approval began at the CBCC as a clinical trial drug.
"It's almost like a smart bomb or a Trojan horse because you send the drug into the body and it circulates around and goes only into the cancer cells," explained Dr. Patel.
Once the drug is in the cell, toxic chemicals release and explode, killing the cancer cell. The drug was tested on 900 patients at CBCC and at other clinics across the country. All of the patients had advanced and aggressive breast cancer where the cancer cells mutate, called Her 2. The half of the group that was given Kadcyla, lived six to eight months longer, with no hair loss or nausea. And, with FDA approval, it can be used on earlier stage cancer to control it.
"If a car is going at 200 miles an hour and if we can bring it down to 50 miles an hour or bring it to a stop, at least we are going somewhere," said Dr. Patel.
Kadcyla is one of several oncology breakthroughs that began as clinical trials at CBCC And, they consistently keep 25 to 30 studies open for patients to choose to take part at no cost to them.
Linda Davis has stage three lung cancer and just became part of a trial testing the intravenous drug Onartuzamab.
"I really didn't think twice about it," said Davis. "I was really all for it. The way they explained it to me, it just sounded really good to me."
"They get new hope by getting involved in a clinical trial for themselves and for others. So, if all of a sudden a drug works for them, it's going to buy them more time," said Dr. Patel.
Kadcyla is not cheap. It's about $10,000 a month, $100,000 for the year. Dr. Patel says the new Kern County Cancer Fund supports it and will reach out to the drug manufacturer first, for patients who might benefit from it.