Fiona Diner was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the start of 2015 at the age of 47. The cancer had spread to multiple spots in her lungs. Biopsies revealed the cancer to be hormone receptor positive, HER2-negative.
Breast surgery was not recommended by her medical oncologist, so she went straight to four months of chemotherapy, followed by letrozole tablets and ovarian suppression which continued to slowly shrink the tumours and
keep the disease stable for 3.5 years. At the end of 2018 the cancer developed resistance to these treatments and started to grow again.
“I was aware of the good clinical results palbociclib (also called Ibrance) had for treating metastatic breast cancer through my own research of clinical trials and attending information forums run by BCNA,” Fiona said. “I discussed this with my oncologist and, while the cost of palbociclib at $5,000 per month seemed to be prohibitive, it seemed to me that as a second-line therapy it could still be very effective. I was able to set aside some life insurance money for when I might need to purchase the palbociclib and crossed my fingers that it might go on the PBS before then.”
At the end of 2018, Fiona’s oncologist prescribed palbociclib tablets in conjunction with monthly fulvestrant (Faslodex) injections.
“The first three months on the new treatment were nerve-wracking, but then the scan results came back and showed the tumours were shrinking. Since then, the two small breast tumours have become undetectable on scans,” Fiona said.
Fiona said the side effects from palbociclib have been fewer and less severe than the ones she experienced on chemotherapy. “My neutrophils were quite low putting me at risk of infections, but this stabilised to almost
normal levels after three months. I occasionally experience mild nausea and get a bit tired, but generally I feel fit and well. The most annoying side effect is a nasty taste in my mouth. I also get a sore mouth and gums, but my periodontist suggested using a soft manual toothbrush rather than my electric one and that helps,” she said. “I am able to exercise, do my volunteer work and look after my family, which is exactly what I want to be doing.
Hopefully this current treatment will continue to work for many more months and I can keep feeling almost like a “normal” person!