Manchester mother trials breast cancer drug

Emma Barnes Credit: ITV Granada

Emma Barnes is the picture of health. The 38-year-old mother-of-two from Duckinfield doesn't look like she's old enough to have a daughter of 18, and certainly doesn't look like she's been battling cancer for 11 years.

But Emma was first diagnosed in 2003 with an aggressive form of breast cancer - she was just 27 at the time.

Two years later doctors found secondary tumours on her liver. Despite going through all the normal chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she got the terrible news in 2010 that the cancer was back and this time, terminal.

It was then that she was put on a trial drug called Kadcyla or TDM-1 - a new and revolutionary treatment for women with the defective Her2 gene.

Within months of being on the trial at The Christie in Manchester, it became clear this drug was having an amazing result on her tumours. Now almost four years into the trial, doctors and scientists have decided to make the drug available to the public for the very first time.

The drug works a bit like a smart bomb. A targeted antibody is combined with a form of chemotherapy which delivers the chemo directly to the cancer cells, avoiding the good cells.

It means that it reduces the unpleasant side effects often associated with chemotherapy and is much better tolerated by patients, allowing them a much better quality of life.

For Emma, who has the treatment at The Christie every three weeks through a drip, it has meant the world.

I actually first met Emma back in October 2012. The difference in her since then struck me immediately when I saw her again this morning. She's lost several stone in weight and she says she's living life to the full. It was thrilling for me to see her so well.

Scientists say they're hopeful this new treatment can, in time, be used on other cancers, not just breast. Doctors say the drug can prolong life for 6 months, offering a life-line for patients with terminal cancer. But Emma has defied even those odds, still here and still well, after almost 4 years.

She is under no illusion that this is some miracle wonder drug, and she tells me its 'unhelpful' to class it as such. She knows this can't cure her cancer. But she says it has given her hope and crucially more time. And she says the longer she is alive and well, the more chance she will be here if, and when, that elusive cure can finally be found.