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Local doctors developing new drug to fight recurrent breast cancer

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Researchers here in San Antonio are developing a new drug to fight breast cancer when it comes back a second time

“It was just a shock," said Janie Barrera, president and CEO of LiftFund.

A year and a half ago, Barrera was trying to find the answer to one question

She would think about it while running 25 miles a week.

“How could this happen to me?” said Barrera. “Because I'm in perfectly good shape. I have no other problems whatsoever."

In January of 2016, she was diagnosed with breast cancer

“I was between stage two and three," said Barrera.

Barerra's type of breast cancer is hormone dependent

For nearly nine months, Barrera underwent chemo and radiation treatments.

She also began taking an experimental drug

“But the tumor did not shrink," said Barrera.

Doctors say anti-estrogen drugs have been used to treat cancer for 20 years.

""The problem is after 5 to 10 years many of them comes back due to resistance," said Dr. Ratna Vadlamudi.

Vadlamudi and his team at UT Health San Antonio are developing a pill that delivers a molecule to breast cancer cells

The molecule creates a bigger block against estrogen

The pill is already being tested with mice and is showing promising signs.

“The tumors are regressing completely," said Vadlamudi.

Doctors also say maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for patients to prevent breast cancer coming back a second time.

“If they gain weight, they have a worse prognosis,” said Dr. Virginia Kaklamani, a medical oncologist at UTHSA. “They have a better chance of the cancer coming back."

Barrera is doing everything she can to prevent cancer from coming back again.

"I've started exercising again,” said Barrera. “I'm only up to three miles. Every little bit helps."

In August of last year, Barrera had a mastectomy and also had four lymph nodes removed.

All of them came back negative.

Doctors recommend 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise from breast cancer patients.

Especially for women who are younger than 60, to increase their chances of survival.

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