RICHMOND - About 6,000 women will learn they have breast cancer in Virginia this year, but a new drug is giving many patients hope.
Perjeta is the first ever drug of its kind approved by the FDA. It's used before surgery and helping to save more lives.
Nia Lisby was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer on June 1, 2012 and she's lived to see better days.
"When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I was traumatized," she says. "It was the scariest thing I ever had to go through."
When Lisby was going through treatment, Perjeta was being used in combination with other chemotherapy drugs, but just last week it was approved by the FDA as a pre-surgical treatment - giving jumpstart to treatment
Doctor Eric Melzig says Perjeta is approved for women with a form of early-stage breast cancer who have a high risk of their cancer spreading.
When given the drug as a pre-surgical step, women were more likely to be cancer free 12 weeks after having tumors removed.
"Giving it the medication up front and potentially killing every cancer cell before we do surgical analysis leads to the great prognosis," he says.
20 percent helped before is now doubled to 40 percent.
"That's huge in breast cancer treatment and unfortunately 40 percent isn't 100 percent, but it doesn't happen overnight."
For some, it could mean the difference between keeping their breasts, as opposed to having a full mastectomy.
"Cancer isn't a death sentence. Science and technology and treatment have come so far and this is a great breakthrough."
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