46-year old Amanda Edwards has been fighting breast cancer for 6 years. When doctors found out that the cancer metastasized in her skull and brain lining, she received front line treatments right away.

News | 3 months ago

Levine Cancer Institute Uses Newly FDA-Approved Drug for Breast Cancer Patients

46-year old Amanda Edwards has been fighting breast cancer for 6 years. When doctors found out that the cancer metastasized in her skull and brain lining, she received front line treatments right away. Then in January 2020, she began treatment with the newly approved drug by the FDA, ENHERTU. Since then, she has seen significant progress and improved symptoms.

46-year old Amanda Edwards is a physical therapist and active mother of two. She is also a breast cancer survivor, having beaten the illness through chemotherapy in 2014. But after 3 years of being cancer-free, she received news that her cancer had come back— this time as an aggressive HER-2 positive subtype which often targets the brain.

Cancer patient, Amanda Edwards, with Dr. Ashley SumrallSince then, she has been receiving treatment and top-of-the-line care from Levine Cancer Institute (LCI) under the guidance of Ashley L. Sumrall, MD. Since LCI is on the cutting edge of industry knowledge, Amanda benefits from the latest and greatest drugs, which include ENHERTU, a drug recently approved by the FDA.

Amanda’s promising results encourage her to continue with the new treatment and pursue each day with passion. Regarding her journey, she says.

“I’ve been fighting cancer for 6 years. I used to ask…Why me? But I’ve turned it into a positive as I love to help people, and sharing my story gives me a purpose.”

“Just in Time”

In October 2017, Amanda felt like something was wrong. She had an abnormal pain that didn’t go away, so she went to her local oncologist for a checkup. The initial scan showed that the cancer had come back as a stage 4 disease in her skull and lymph node.

After this, Amanda’s sister, who is a medical professional in Atlanta, reached out to Dr. Sumrall via social media for a second opinion. Dr. Sumrall responded and said that she could see Amanda the next day. Dr. Sumrall’s immediate concern was that the CT scans were only telling part of the story. She ordered an MRI for more details, which showed that the cancer had gone through the bone of her skull and invaded the lining of her brain. Dr. Sumrall’s quick action resulted in more disease being detected just in time.

Thanks to Dr. Sumrall’s timely and thorough assessment of Amanda, she decided to become a patient of Levine Cancer Institute and fully entrusted her care to the hands of Dr. Sumrall.

Within one week of the CT, Dr. Sumrall ordered a biopsy of the area to confirm that it was breast cancer. The features of the cancer were different from the cancer from 2014, indicating a HER-2 positive breast cancer- a rare and aggressive subtype that tends to target the brain.

Dr. Sumrall began treatment immediately for Amanda. Amanda participated in mainstream treatments such as multiple lines of chemotherapy, radiation of the skull and part of the brain lining that was affected. This rotation of treatments lasted throughout 2017 and into the summer of 2019 until the cancer was found to have spread to Amanda’s lungs.

Unfortunately, the cancer was no longer responding to the treatments that kept it at bay for 3 years. As the cancer grew, the disease in her lungs next to her heart started to trigger a chronic cough and shortness of breath. Amanda was devastated by the disease’s progression, but soon after this upsetting news, Dr. Sumrall would save Amanda’s life for the second time.

A Game Changer

Dr. Sumrall was actively looking for clinical trials and treatments to help Amanda, but most options would involve Amanda having to leave her family for extended periods. This is not ideal for patients who are actively in treatment, as the travel and separation from family can be both physically and emotionally draining.

But in December 2019, good news was on the horizon. The FDA approved ENHERTU, a drug that showed promising results in clinical trials — a treatment that many in the oncology world, including Dr. Sumrall-were watching and waiting for.

Now that the drug was FDA approved, it was possible to get treatment at home. Usually, obtaining a new drug can be a slow process because of insurance approval and other paperwork, but Levine Cancer Institute was able to get Amanda access to the drug in just one month.

“We were so excited about it. I knew I had to get it to her as fast as I could. There was tremendous teamwork from the nurses, staff, and administrators to make this possible,” says Dr. Sumrall.

46-year old Amanda Edwards has been fighting breast cancer for 6 years. When doctors found out that the cancer metastasized in her skull and brain lining, she received front line treatments right away. On January 28, 2020, Amanda became LCI’s first ever recipient of the drug. Delivered via infusion every 3 weeks, Amanda tolerated it very well with minimum side effects. “I had a feeling the drug was working because I felt better,” said Amanda. In fact, Amanda had improvement of her coughing and shortness of breath just after the first dose. Sure enough, the scans confirmed what Amanda was feeling- the drug was working and the mass in Amanda’s chest and brain were shrinking.

Overall, Amanda has seen a 50% decrease in the cancer in her chest. Dr. Sumrall calls the results “durable” as it sticks with the patient. This is in line with how patients have responded to the new drug in clinical trials too.

“I view it as the sky's the limit for her,” says Dr. Sumrall.

Amanda is ecstatic over the results of this new drug and how it has improved her quality of life. With her next scan coming up, she is happy to report less “scan-xiety” due to how well things have worked out this year.

“We are hoping we get a good year out of this. Some patients get a complete response! At this point, it is about buying me back time,” said Amanda. “I have the most amazing people in my life. My neighbors and family are the best. My battle with cancer has been going on and off for 6 years, and no one is tired of supporting me.”

This experience has been an encouraging one for both Dr. Sumrall and Amanda. To be at the forefront of oncology and to implement new, effective treatments is a rewarding position for Dr. Sumrall.

“What draws you to oncology...you have these incredible patients. It’s wonderful to discover these new treatments. It’s such an incredible privilege to walk with them and to hear their good news. It’s such a meaningful calling to help people in this way.”