PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Advancements in a drug targeting breast cancer growth have oncologists hopeful about potential treatment options for patients with advanced forms of the disease.

Results from the DESTINY-Breast04 Phase III trial showed the intravenous drug Enhertu, also known as trastuzumab deruxtecan, demonstrated “superior and clinically meaningful” progression-free and overall survival in previously treated patients with certain forms of breast cancer.

The drug is being jointly developed by AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo.

In the clinical trial, researchers found the drug improved survival rates for patients with metastatic breast cancer by nearly 40%.

The results were presented at the 2022 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting last week. Dr. Stephanie Graff, director of breast oncology at the Lifespan Cancer Institute, was in attendance.

“Everybody in the room gave a standing ovation and clapped and cheered because this is huge for the patients that we treat, to get to see data like that,” Graff told 12 News.

Until now, breast cancers have been categorized as HER2-positive — cancer cells that have more protein than normal — or HER2-negative.

Daiichi Sankyo, AstraZeneca via AP

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has so far only approved the drug for HER2-positive breast cancer patients. However, the trial has paved the way for doctors to open up a new category called HER2-low.

“Only about 15% of breast cancer is HER2-positive, but as much as 60 to 65% of breast cancer is HER2-low,” Graff explained. “And so by expanding this new definition of breast cancer, it looks like this might affect a lot of people diagnosed with the disease.”

Enhertu is what’s called an antibody-drug conjugate, which is administered by IV every three weeks. Graff said it targets and blocks the HER2-low protein on cancer cells in an effort to kill them.

The trial found a rare side effect that can cause lung inflammation to develop.

Lifespan is planning to bring future research phases — DESTINY Breast-06 and DESTINY Breast-07 — to Rhode Island in the coming weeks, according to Graff.

“Lots of innovation happening here in Rhode Island using this very exciting drug,” she added.

While in attendance at the conference in Chicago, Graff was awarded Woman Disruptor of the Year for her positive advancements in the oncology community.