Diane Flaherty: Major Hopes for a Little White Pill

Patient PerspectivesOne woman in eight will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. But UCSD researchers are hoping to change that statistic with the help of a breast cancer drug.

Sixty-year-old Diane Flaherty takes good care of herself. She exercises every day, takes her vitamins and eats well. But it's a little white pill that could keep her from getting breast cancer.

“If we could just take a pill once a day and be assured that we're preventing breast cancer, it's just wonderful,” said Flaherty.

For many women, living cancer free could be just that simple. That's why Flaherty is participating in a five-year research study at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center. Its goal is to determine if a breast cancer drug, aromasin (generic is exemestane), can actually keep older women from getting the disease.

Aromasin has been successful in treating women who are recovering from breast cancer. But this is the first major study of its effectiveness as preventive medication.

The primary goal of the study is to see if the development of breast cancer in woman who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer can be prevented.

The pill has only been proven effective for post-menopausal women. But because it can be used in 75 percent of all breast cancer cases, it has the potential of being a major medical breakthrough.

Fortunately, Flaherty has never had to worry about breast cancer, and she's hoping this little white pill will keep it that way. “I'm actually doing this study for myself, and I have a daughter, so I am doing the study for her, and I'm doing the study for other women,” Flaherty said.