Breast cancer patients rally to keep Avastin - - Jackson, MS

Breast cancer patients rally to keep Avastin

By Stephanie Bell Flynt - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Christi Turnage is one of thousands of breast cancer patients up in arms about a recent FDA Advisory Committee ruling. "I was devastated. I immediately went into fight or flight mode. It was like, we have go to do something," Turnage said.

The FDA is considering removing the drug Avastin from the indication of use in breast cancer. Advisors say studies show life isn't extended significantly enough to out weight the risks of clots and intestinal damage. "Those are big, bad and scary things. But personally those are quick. I won't say painless death. But they're quick death. For me personally, if I'm going to die of something related to my cancer I'd rather go quickly than sit around and wait for my cancer to go back and let it slowly take away my life."

"We have a number of patients who would be dead without the drug," said Christi's oncologist  Dr. Louis Puneky at the UMC Cancer Institute. He admits that Avastin does not work for every late stage breast cancer patient, but..."When it works, it works well."

Dr. Puneky sees Christi every three weeks when she comes to get her Avastin treatment by IV. He says without Avastin, there are few alternatives left for this mother of four. "Triple negative is particularly bad because we can't use hormone treatment or the Herceptin, a directed treatment for that. We're basically left with chemotherapy and Avastin for that one," Dr. Puneky said.

Triple negative is what Christi has. "Just my quality of life has been so much better since I've been on this drug. I have hair. I have blood counts. I'm not so tired that I can't do things with my children," Turnage said. 

For now, Christi is holding her breath and praying the FDA will deny the Advisory Panel's recommendation."At stage four, the average life span is two years. I'm at two years right now, and thank Avastin for that. I don't feel like I look like I'm dying from breast cancer."

A fate than can turn so quickly on a woman who's fought so hard to survive.


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