DALLAS—Karen Kuhlmann has fought breast cancer since she was diagnosed in July of 2009--she underwent traditional chemotherapy--and for a brief moment the future looked bright.
"I had my bilateral mastectomy," Karen said. "I had the reconstruction, everything was great and we got hit three months later that it had spread to my liver."
Her doctor suggested she take part in a phase two clinical trial and Karen became 1 of 120 women being treated with iniparib BSI-201.
Triple negative breast cancer tumors have cell receptors that don't respond to estrogen, progesterone and Her-2.
Dr. John Pippen is an oncologist at Texas Oncology.
"These triple negative breast cancers can be particularly troublesome," Dr. Pippen said. "They strike younger women, African Americans and other minorities and are really notorious about returning early."
Iniparib is used in conjunction with traditional chemotherapy.
"This drug works in a little different way," Dr. Pippen said. "It impairs the tumors ability to repair DNA damage that is brought about by the chemotherapy and this spares the normal cells in the body from the effects of the treatment." Karen started the trial after Thanksgiving and is encouraged.
"We are seeing progress," Karen said. "I had a scan just two weeks ago and my tumors are shrinking in my liver."
The Plano elementary school teacher grades papers while being treated--twice a week.
Dr. Pippen says the completed phase II trial extended survival for about six months.
The phase III trial is under review.
"The data from the phase three trial has not been seen by the investigators yet, but there are some early returns on it that it might not be as good as we though originally."
Dr. Pippen said the drug needs more study to make sure it works the way doctors and patients hope it does.
As for Karen--she's getting better--drip by drip.
"I thank God everyday that I wake up."