Custom Treatment For Breast Cancer Victims

LaPook--individualized breast cancer treatments
LaPook--individualized breast cancer treatments

Three women were once diagnosed with breast cancer. Each one is surviving thanks to new treatments that are as individual as they are, CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reports.

"We have changed almost everything that we do," says Dr. Clifford Hudis, the doctor for all three women and one of the nation's leading experts on breast cancer. "We've learned that breast cancer is really a collection of diseases as opposed to being just one disease. And from that flows a series of treatments that are to some degrees tailored for each patient."

Linnie Pickering was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago. Her treatment was a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. "I think I feel better now than before," says Pickering. "I'm really eating healthier. I'm exercising more."

Pickering's form of breast cancer used her own body's estrogen as fuel to grow.

"I'm always so amazed that this little teeny pill is helping me every day fight the cancer and stay healthy," she says.

That tiny pill is called Femara. It's a form of hormone therapy that shuts off her body's estrogen production, keeping the cancer at bay and the 58-year-old on the move.

Jodi Sandler is a single, working mom. She was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year ago. Since then, she's had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, Herceptin and hormone therapy. She got a special, concentrated form of chemotherapy that shortened her treatment time.

"We don't give chemo the way we did 10 or 15 years ago," Hudis says.

New medicines are helping to prevent the common side effects of standard chemotherapy, such as nausea, anemia and infection.

"I exercised the whole time. I walked as much as I could," Sandler says. "I kept working as much as I could."

A big part of Jodi's treatment is Herceptin, a therapy that helps prevent breast cancer recurrence for the 20 to 25 percent of patients with Jodi's type of breast cancer.

"I go to Sloan-Kettering every three weeks and I have an hour and a half IV infusion," Sandler explains. "Herceptin is a miracle drug."

Adrienne Reid juggles a packed schedule. She's a business executive, a Sunday school teacher and a soccer mom. She also receives chemotherapy three weeks a month.

"The chemotherapy is what's keeping me going," Rich says. "It stops the cancer from growing, and it allows me to have the lifestyle I have."

Rich was diagnosed with breast cancer 16 years ago. Surgery, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy kept her cancer-free for a decade. But six years ago, her breast cancer came back and spread. Her doctors have been working to outsmart it with a variety of drugs.

"I do think that women like me will be treated as if we have a chronic illness, that these drugs will be able to slow down the cancer growth so that we can have a much longer lifetime," Rich says.

Three women — each one surviving, and thriving, with the help of new and smarter breast cancer treatments.