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New FDA-approved drug reduces risk of cancer progression, death

Therapy, medicine combo stops signals that cancer cells use to grow, divide

HOUSTON – For women with invasive breast cancer and advanced forms of the disease, there’s now a new treatment.

Doctors are calling it a first line of defense.

Nothing is going to get in the way of life for mother Sally McGiffin and daughter Shannon McGiffin -- not even cancer.

“When we first got (the) diagnosis, we sat and cried maybe half an hour to an hour, and then she looked at me and said, 'This disease is not going to beat me,'” Sally said.

That attitude and a newly approved FDA drug called Ribociclib has kept Shannon McGiffin’s Stage 4 metastic breast cancer under control.

“It’s a miracle," Shannon said. "It really is a miracle for me to be able to have survived this long.”

Oncologist Heather Han said that when combined with hormonal therapy, Ribociclib stops signals that cancer cells use to grow and divide.

“I’m obviously very excited that this drug, finally, actually quickly got approved, and I’m able to be there to help patients to do better,” Han said.

Han said the Ribociclib combination can be used as the first line of defense in the battle against cancer. The risk of progression or death has been reduced by 44 percent.

“So it’s been in clinical trial for several years, but FDA was able to approve it quickly when it showed dramatic improvement of the patients,” Han said.

The side effects for her have been high blood sugar levels and fatigue.

“I do spend a lot of my time sleeping,” Shannon said.

For Shannon, it’s not a cure, but it has given her precious time with those who matter most.

Candidates for the drug usually can be patients with newly diagnosed advanced breast cancer, who are hormone-receptor positive and HER2 negative. Patients’ EKGs must be monitored in the first few weeks of taking the drug to make sure it doesn’t cause any cardiac issues.

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