New drug can target cancer cells more directly than traditional chemotherapy

CHARLOTTE — For PINK DAY at Channel 9, we’ve partnered with Atrium Health to share stories of survival and resources.

With more breast cancer awareness comes money for research. And with that research comes new drugs, treatments and better surgical options.

One of the newest options excites a doctor at Levine Cancer Institute. Dr. Arielle Heeke said there’s a type of drug that recently went through clinical trials. She said it helps doctors deliver chemotherapy with better precision.

Traditional chemotherapy kills cancer cells, and healthy cells in the process. But antibody drug conjugates, or ADCs, can target cancer cells directly and hopefully leave more of the healthy cells alone.

“By the mechanism of how these drugs work where it’s more targeted, rather than just kind of going through the whole body, almost blind -- we do generally see less toxicities than traditional chemo. They’re not perfect though,” Heeke said. “It’s a nice bridge before we potentially have to get to traditional IV chemo for some of our more advanced stage patients, but also for our early stage patients where we’re starting to test these drugs a little bit more. They’re kind of like the next generation therapy so they’re a little bit more powerful.”

Dr. Heeke says the ADCs can have side effects that are less severe for patients than traditional chemo.


As of May 2021, the FDA had approved 10 ADCs, and dozens more are going through trials. Dr. Heeke said Levine Cancer Institute also has several clinical trials patients can be a part of.

For more information on breast cancer care and clinical trials, or to schedule an appointment, call 704-302-9270.

(PINK DAY: Channel 9, Atrium partner to share breast cancer survivor stories)

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