Cancer ‘cure’ leaves mums smiling


A WORLD renowned Perth oncologist has revealed she has cured more than a dozen women of Stage 4 breast cancer, giving hope to women across Australia.

Professor Arlene Chan, who is at the forefront of cutting-edge breast cancer treatment, said while she had not found “the cure” for metastatic breast cancer, she had rid 12 women of the terminal disease. These patients have since been discharged.

Metastatic cancer occurs when the disease spreads to create tumours in the liver, brain, bones and other parts of the body.

media_cameraProfessor Arlene Chan, who is at the forefront of cutting-edge breast cancer treatment.

Professor Chan, a founder of the Breast Cancer Research Centre WA, said these “defined cases of cured metastatic breast cancer” were patients who had received various treatments, including clinical drug trials.

They subsequently were in complete remission for more than 10 years, with treatment now no longer required.

She said there were an additional 74 patients in remission from metastatic disease, with 36 of these patients having reached complete remission for several years and receiving minimal ongoing treatment.

“For many years, survival from the time of diagnosis of metastatic disease was two to three years, or less, so it was pretty bleak,” Professor Chan said. “Now we are seeing 15 per cent of our patients living beyond five years and 5 per cent are still going strong a decade later.”

Professor Chan said “isolated cases” of curing metastatic breast cancer would become more prevalent as new treatments prolonged lifespans and the disease “transitioned” from terminal to chronic.

“The vision we have is to find safer, less toxic drugs that work so effectively that you’re treating the majority of patients in the same way we now treat chronic illness,” Professor Chan said.

Some of her current metastatic patients who were in complete or partial remission were being treated as chronic disease patients, using low-impact drugs, such as a daily pill, with minimal side effects.

Professor Chan said the most successful outcomes relied on the type and aggressiveness of breast cancer, with some forms more curable than others, as well as the location of metastases and the treatment regimen.

She said it was vital patients receive evidence-based treatments adjusted to changing conditions.

“There is definitely hope for women with advancements in breast cancer research and probably the biggest hope is for better and less toxic drugs which will be able to keep women with metastatic breast cancer living for many years with a chronic disease,” she said.

Professor Chan said 57 per cent of BCRC’s clinical trials focused on metastatic cancer, with three current trials focused on improving treatment and quality of life for women with metastatic breast cancer to the brain.

media_cameraCancer survivor Christine Morton with grandson Charlie Williamson, 1, son in law Michael Williamson, grandson Ethan Morton, 11, and son Gary Wesley. Picture: Daniel Wilkins

One of her longest surviving metastatic patients, Christine Morton, 66, had been in remission for 15 years and stopped treatment in April after Professor Chan assessed her as “cured”.

Mrs Morton said she “never imagined” surviving breast cancer long enough to meet her four grandchildren and see them grow up.

She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 aged 49. Within days, doctors discovered the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and ribs.

“I was basically told I had 12 to 24 months to get my affairs in order. It was such a huge shock but I thought I can’t leave my children,” the Rockingham resident said.

She was treated with an anti-estrogen drug therapy which shrunk her cancer until it disappeared and went into remission about two years after diagnosis.

Mrs Morton said she maintained a positive outlook despite years of uncertainty and focused on her “bucket list” of adventures.

She said she supplemented her treatment with herbal medicines and natural food.

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