Initial research shows that a new class of drugs made from antibodies — when given along with chemotherapy — may better a woman’s chances of fighting off some of the most deadly types of breast cancer by cutting off the tumor’s blood supply. In a process known as angiogenesis, tumors de-velop their own blood vessels to “feed” the cancer’s growth.
Silverman has studied an anti-angiogenesis drug called bevacizumab. An antibody, this “smart” drug finds its way directly to the tumor and starves it by preventing it from growing new blood vessels. With-out a blood supply, the tumor can’t grow.
And because antibodies affect only the immune system, it doesn’t have any of the side effects of tra-ditional chemotherapy. Silverman’s recent research, though still in the early stages, shows that combin-ing bevacizumab with chemotherapy decreases blood flow to the breast cancer significantly.
Although she collaborates with researchers who are investigating everything from a breast cancer vac-cine to new radiation treatments, Silverman concentrates her own research on the toughest class of breast cancer to beat, called locally advanced breast cancers, which affect fewer than 10 percent of women with the disease. In such cases, either surgery alone cannot eradicate the tumor, or, as in the case of inflammatory breast cancer, there might not even be a mass.
Her research — and that of her UHCMC team — may one day lead to a way to beat this invasive form of breast cancer. Despite the challenges, she remains optimistic.
“Women live longer with the disease than they ever did,” says Silverman, the medical director for breast cancer programs at UHCMC. “Early detection is curing more women and the incidence of breast cancer is dropping. This is a really positive time for patients with breast cancer.”
12:00 AM EST
February 22, 2007