Yael’s story – coping with triple negative breast cancer
Yael contracted triple negative breast cancer and her health deteriorated rapidly. Through genomic DNA sequencing of the tumor tissue, it was discovered that the tumor contained a mutation in the HER2 gene, for which a new biological anti-HER2 drug exists. Yael has been treated with this drug for about a year and a half and has resumed normal physical activity.
Yael, who is now 54, was diagnosed with hormonal breast cancer at the age of 42, which had metastasized into her bones. Yael underwent surgery to excise her ovaries and received hormonal therapy that completely shrunk the tumor.
Two years later, another tumor was diagnosed in the same breast, this time triple negative (negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and HER2). This type of tumor, which appears in 15-20% of breast cancer tumors, tends to be more violent than hormonal breast cancer, both in terms of the risk of the cancer spreading and in terms of the degree of risk of the recurrence of the disease in the future. The tumor cells do not express estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors, and do not express an elevated quantity of the HER2 protein, and therefore, the tumor may be treated with hormone treatments or biological anti-HER2 therapy.
Under the circumstances, chemotherapy is the primary treatment option for this type of cancer, both in instances of early detection and in its advanced, metastasized stages.
Three years ago, during a trek in Nepal, Yael began to experience severe pain. She was treated with steroids to relieve the pain and completed her trek riding a donkey. When she returned to Israel, her diagnosis showed a severe outbreak of triple negative cancer in her liver. Yael’s skin had turned completely yellow when she began receiving chemotherapy with Xeloda. The tumor has shrunk as a result of the chemotherapy, but Yael suffered severe side effects of edema in her legs, aphthae (small ulcers in her mouth), tingling and swelling in her limbs. Her husband, who is a physician, drained the edema every two weeks. For a few months, the tumor indeed responded to the drug and its growth was arrested, but Yael’s functioning was deteriorating, and eventually needed full nursing care, and even found it difficult to sit herself down in a wheelchair. In light of her poor condition, about a year and a half ago, her physicians recommended that she refer to Oncotest-Teva. A biopsy of her liver was taken, which was used for genomic DNA sequencing of the tumor tissue. The test results were dramatic. For the first time, it was discovered that Yael had a mutation in the HER2 gene in the tumor cells in her liver. Her attending oncologist, Dr. Noa Ben-Baruch, recalled that, during a breast cancer conference in San Antonio, Texas, she had seen a new biological drug called Neratinib, which had been proven to be highly effective in fighting this particular mutation. This drug is not registered in Israel, and therefore, Dr. Ben-Baruch contacted the pharmaceutical company and asked to receive the therapy for Yael. Only after about three months of repeated and insistent requests by Dr. Ben-Baruch were the pills received.
Yael began the treatment with the drug in April 2013 and immediately began to feel better. Within a short time, she progressed from a wheel chair to a walker, and soon afterwards, began walking independently. Tests showed that the therapy had dramatically arrested the growth of the tumor and her liver markers and functioning improved accordingly. Thanks to the significant improvement in her health, Yael was able to take a trip to South Africa, to enjoy a zip-line adventure, to tour Europe in a caravan and to fulfill other dreams. Today, thanks to the determination of Yael’s physician, the cooperation with Oncotest and the selection of the most suitable genome DNA sequencing tests, Yael is taking Neratinib, is not suffering from any side effects at all, her state of health is stable and she has resumed normal daily functioning.