Aggressive breast cancer can be hard to beat. Even if women do overcome it, there's a good chance it could come back.
Now, doctors believe depleting the body of a well-known metal could be the key to keeping it away.
These days, Martha Bruehl always takes time to stop and smell the roses. She was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer nine years ago. "I was not as scared until I found out it was in my liver."
She's had chemo, radiation, and surgery, but Martha's cancer has come back twice.
Now, she's taking part in a study investigating if depleting the body of copper will keep aggressive breast cancer at bay. Researchers studied 40 women with tumors that were likely to recur. When given the copper-depleting drug, known as T.M., patients had a reduction in cells that promote tumor growth.
"For the vast majority of them, their tumor didn't come back. Even in those that we would really 100 percent expect their tumors to come back," says Dr. Linda Vahdat, Director of the Breast Cancer Research Program, Weill Cornell Medical College.
In fact, two patients with stage four triple-negative breast cancer are disease-free at four and five years. Most triple-negative patients with advanced cancer die within ten months and 85-percent of patients with stage three or four breast cancers were disease-free at ten months.
Martha is one of them. Her cancer is still in remission and she's hoping it will stay that way!
Doctors don't know exactly why copper levels go up in cancer patients. They tell us you really can't control or deplete copper levels by monitoring your diet. Patients in the study start by taking nine of the anti-copper pills a day. The only side effects are the risk of low white blood counts and sulfur burps.