Zero in on your target with a direct hit. That's the approach researchers at Johns Hopkins University are using to attack breast cancer.
Dr. Susan Love, who's working alongside researchers, says the idea is to use precision to pump medicine right into the tumor and avoid sending toxic chemotherapy all throughout a woman's body.
"Right now, the treatment is surgery, trying to cut it out, pretty blindly, and then radiation and then hormone treatment. But if this kind of treatment could really work, we could eliminate the need to have a mastectomy and really just squirt the treatment down the ducts like Drano and clean them out," said Love.
This treatment is applicable to about 40,000 women who are diagnosed with certain types of breast cancer. The ducts are where most breast cancers begin.
Doctors take a thin catheter and thread it into the woman's duct, creating a passageway that lets them deliver medicines directly to those tumor cells.
"This would be a treatment that could give people a way of getting rid of their breast cancer without so many of those terrible side effects," said Susannah Wolf, a breast cancer patient.
Wolf was part of this cutting-edge study, which was just testing to see if the delivery system would be safe. She had stage 2 breast cancer and knew she would have a double mastectomy. But before her surgery, she volunteered.
"I wanted to do whatever I could that would be helpful to people who came after me," said Wolf.
The results are encouraging. It showed no major side effects in patients like Wolf, and it's worked to knock out the cancer in animals.
"This change in treatment is not that far away. I would say in the next 5 to 10 years we should see it in the clinic," said Love.
Even though researchers found that there was a preventative effect in animal studies, it's far too early to know whether that same effect will occur in humans.
That's why the next step is to start doing larger studies with women who've been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer using this targeted approach.