Woman gets cancer drug released early after posting video pleading for help
In a moving video, Darlene Gant, 46, asked for the early release of a cancer drug under compassionate use.
April 30th, 2012
01:21 PM ET

Woman gets cancer drug released early after posting video pleading for help

Darlene Gant sat in her hospital bed, barely able to lift her head. She was writing letters to her 11-year-son for his upcoming birthday, his eventual high school and college graduations and even a future marriage.

"Did you always know I loved you?" she wrote in a card meant for his 12th birthday. "Of all the things in my life I could have or should have done differently there’s one thing I’d never change, having you as my son."

Gant, 46, who is suffering from stage-four breast cancer, has been told she doesn't have long to live. She worried she wouldn't be around to see her son grow up despite a trial drug that could prolong her life.

That drug, pertuzumab, was scheduled to be released in June when the Food and Drug Administration was expected to approve it. But Gant wouldn't have that long, doctors said.

So she posted a video on YouTube pleading for the early release of the drug under compassionate use, which allows for an unapproved drug to be used if no other treatment is available.

In the video, she holds up a slew of cards for her son for those future occasions to show what she would miss if she couldn't get the drug.

"We’re planning out cards and videos and books and passing on our final words and trying to raise our kids from beyond," Gant said as tears stream down her face. "How sad is that?"

The moving video, which has more than 30,000 views on YouTube, and Gant's story were quickly picked up by media companies around the world.

And then the phone lines of Genentech, the company behind the drug, began ringing off the hook.

It agreed to release the drug, and Gant began her first dose last week.

"My dream is hopefully this video would wake somebody up to think," she says in the video.

And it appears her dream, at least for now, is partially fulfilled.

Now she's hoping the drug will help give her a better quality of life, even if she lives a little longer until Mother's Day. Perhaps, she can make it to October and give her son a birthday card herself.

"If it gave us two months or a year, that’s priceless for a family," she said.

Gant said she had seen so many of her friends die from breast cancer, including her sister-in-law at age 36.

"It's not normal to have a 30-year-old woman with three young kids around a casket peeking in and crying,"she said. "And I’ve seen it too many times."

Gant said she hopes whatever happens, her story brings attention to the need for more treatments, trials and research to combat cancer.

"God knows if it helps one person stand up and say I'll do the same thing or I'll fight, I'm happy," Gant told CNN affiliate Bay News 9 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

After all, she said, it's not just her suffering.

"There’s too many of us dying," Gant said.

soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. mark

    would have been nice to know about this before my mom died last thanksgiving... buncha BS

    April 30, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • WakeUp

      I'm very sorry to hear about the passing your mother last Thanksgiving. What is making me mad is the blindness of the world population and their stupidy of the people for not waking up once and for all. There are real cure for all kind of sickness out there including Cancer. It is called suppressed technology. The world leaders like the Rockfeller and others like them have made all these accessible technology removed from the public and have made those who invented them to disappear. And the stupidity of the public keep saying that oh you're talking about conspiracies. Well people will have to wake up and stop those who are working against the people or we will see more people dying everyday when this could be prevented.

      April 30, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Tin Hat Brigade Is Here

      Is your name Kevin Trudeau?

      April 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris R

      Wakeup, I'm sorry but that's just schizoid paranoia talking. Theer is no 'cure' for cancer as there is no single disease of cancer. There is no technology that will turn water into gasoline. There is no carburetor that will give us all 100mpg cars. Yes, I understand that in your world I'm just another sheep that believes the lies. However, you are making pretty extraordinary claims without *any* proof and a lack of evidence does not qualify as evidence. So if you think all of this is happening, if you are saying that millions of people are dying needlessly of cancer – prove it. Show us something, anything that is verifiable, that proves your point. The truth of it is that you can't.

      April 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • WHHuang

      Working as a researcher close to one of the best cancer hospital in the U.S. (MDACC), I go to any seminar to get as much update from the top scientists/clinicians all over the world to learn about how do we target/treat cancer.

      I'm sad to learn about your loss, but since there're so many subtype of breast cancer that respond differently to different drugs, without knowing which one you mother got, any new drug is useless.

      As to the mother in this story, the situation is the same. Without better scientific diagnosis, the new drug most likely wont help her case.

      The government should invest more on the characterization of different subtype of tumor, and the sensitive pathway they rely on for survival, then target these pathways in different individuals for best prognosis.

      April 30, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • ncinsfl

      Everyone has already said it, but I too am sorry to hear about your mother.

      April 30, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Duane

    It may not give her years, but hopefully long enough for more closure. No one should die so young like this, I hope she gets a miracle.

    April 30, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. sharky

    So the drug is not even approved yet is released. I guess more and more of the videos will be put up to force companies and what not to put up drugs that are not approved or are worthless just to prey upon dying people.

    Look yes diseases are bad, and horrible and people suffering is very sad, I will not and cannot deny any of this, but as much as I will be hated for saying this, we need these diseases, just as we need these natural disasters because we have to balance out the populations and that is precisely the point of diseases and natural disasters. People go on and on and on about saving the environment, I want it saved to, but what environment will exist if we keep letting the human population get out of control and try to develop drugs and what not to make it so people live longer and never get sick or are quickly treated .

    I am sorry people suffer, animals suffer too, everything that lives suffers it is a part of life, but life was not said for everyone or everything to live forever and never suffer and never die. We need a balance and that is precisely what these diseases and natural disasters do for the human population, help provide a balance.

    April 30, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hologram

      This woman's illness is not about "reducing the surplus population" aka Ebenezer Scrooge.

      Have some compassion. One day it will be your turn to die and help reduce the surplus population. I hope you have half of the compassion for your family and friends that this woman has. If you have any family and friends left.

      April 30, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Classick

      So the next time you get sick or injured, Don't go get any help. Just like it's a free market and your can stay broke or get rich. You can die or live, but don't tell people how to live their lives. smh

      April 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Your compassion is overwhelming me, sharky. Stop.

      I hope this helps her.
      My thoughts and well wishers are with her and her family.

      April 30, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seriously

      Are you for real? Do you know how to read? It said in the article that the drug is in the final stages of approval and is set for release in June (aka a month). There's no more testing being done at this point, just the paperwork. Releasing it 1 month early poses no risk.

      You're a heartless clown. BTW – she's not an animal, she's a human that can be helped by bypassing some redtape. Honestly, your post is so heartless and uninformed I almost feel bad for you.

      April 30, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      See where your coming from but Darwin's "Survival of the fittest" doesn't apply here. ie she was already a mother so her genes have been replicated. Your concepts seem friendly to those espoused by Himmler and Hitl*r.

      April 30, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • ThunderGun

      Suck a sack.

      April 30, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Tin Hat Brigade Is Here

      ThunderGun, that reply has me ROTFLMAO!

      April 30, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. NamDebra

    Lovely... The FDA drags their feet to approve a cancer fighting drug, but keeps on cranking out luxury drugs like the recently released Viagra copycat. Gotta love how things are prioritized...

    April 30, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jody

      I couldn't agree more, but as a lifelong healthcare worker I have learned it is much more profitable to treat disease than cure it.

      April 30, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris R

      The approval process for drugs based largely on previously approved medications is a lot shorter than novel medications. Likewise, the testing they need to do with something like viagra is a lot shorter than for cancer medications – where you commonly have to follow results over years as opposed to a few weeks.

      As for the whole 'oh, they don't cure diseases because it's not as profitable!" line. Seriously? You work in healthcare and really believe that physicians feel that way? Might I suggest a new line of work where you might actually have a positive impact instead of just being poison?

      April 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. gretchen

    I am struck by this woman's statement that "so many of her friends have died of breast cancer." That seems weird to me. What's the deal with where this lady lives? Something in the environment? Maybe she just started making friends with people online battling breast cancer after she learned she had it, and "so many of her friends died from this " would make more sense this way..?
    I have heard that some researchers think there is a link to interrupting estrogen levels with today's birth control products. Some have stated they think there may be a link to abortion because it too is artificial interruption of estrogen level in body. I think breast cancer runs in families also, doesn't it? Anyway, I do not know anyone at all with breast cancer, which is why I am struck by this poor lady's words about knowing too many people who have died from it.

    April 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Portland tony

      Any friend dieing from or having a diagnosis of ...is too many.

      April 30, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Queen Bee

      You are truly blessed then Gretchen. I can quickly rattle off the top of my head at least eight people that I know that have had breast cancer (me included) and two of whom died from it, one just recently. If I put some thought into it, I could probably come up with more names than that. Sadly, it seems like an epidemic, or perhaps there is just more awareness about it these days. I just had a biopsy again today, which may mean my second bout with it. I am the only one in my family to have ever had it. I'd be interested to know where you live geographically knowing you haven't had any personal experience with it. I am on Long Island, NY.

      April 30, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • sierrra

      My Mother had brest cancer and she also had 2 sisters die from breast cancer. That makes three people out of four in that family.

      April 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Midwestmatt

      Did you ever think that maybe the friends she's made since her diagnosis might have become her friends because they also have breast cancer? Maybe they met at the hospital? Or the doctor's office? And that several have now died?

      Or maybe you just posed a question not worth asking...?

      April 30, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • JeramieH

      Maybe she's in an online support group for women with breast cancer. You're assuming the people she's talking about are local.

      April 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Randy

    I agree that this could create an outcry from patients wanting the FDA to release other drugs prematurely. The FDA could've opened a precedent they aren't going to like. HOWEVER, if a patient is terminal.....you should ALWAYS be allowed to use drugs for compassionate use, trial drugs, studies, and whatever they want to try as long as they are of sound mind and trying to PROLONG their life and not end it. My dad died at 42 of cancer that was not treatable but if there was something we could've tried, you're damn right access to the treatment or drug should be allowed.

    April 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Shelly

    Gretchen, you have a point about where the lady lives. I grew up in an area that was 95% farmland. Until I left home at 18, I thought most people died of cancer and car accidents. Almost everyone I loved died of one or the other. We had a very high instance of birth defects, still births, sterility, and cancer. In a school of 200 students, grades K – 12, we had 3 kids who had Cerebal Palsy, each and every family in my class of 23 had suffered a miscarrage or stillborn birth. Boys were getting testicular cancer as young as 16. To us, it was just a fact of life.

    When my grandmother was diagnosed with bone cancer, she took a trip to the Mayo Clinic. She was told that our state had the highest cancer rates of any state in the union. But, by categorizing cancer into types, it doesn't appear that way in the statiscs. For example, some other state may have a higher rate of prostate cancer than ours, but if you added up all the types of cancer, that state had more cancer cases total.

    No one wants to talk about the chemicals in the ground water there. My grandmother asked me on her deathbed to make her a promise. "Move away from this place, and never, ever move back. Don't raise your kids here, or they'll die like this, too."

    As much as it pained me to move away from everything and everyone that was familiar to me, I did. My sister did, too. Since we've moved away from there, we realized that cancer really isn't as common in other places. My husband only knew one person in his whole life who died of cancer.

    April 30, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Pete

    It'd nice to know there's some compassion in the pharmaceutical corporations.Especially using this new drug on a dying women,a guinea pig of sorts.I pray that this drug gives her some more time to be a mother to her kids.I myself a stage four cancer survivor knows how it feels ,your life in the hands of big pharmaceuticals that have in the past acted heartless,taking cancer drugs off the market that benefits kids because it wasn't making enough of a profit in current use.So to Ms Gant,I pray that the man above takes your pain away and cures you like he did me ,never give up,remember keep your spirits up and smile.CANCER IS ONLY A WORD, NOT A SENTENCE!!!GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN...

    April 30, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. sierrra

    Pete, that is an awesome note you wrote to Ms. Gant, God Bless You and Keep You.

    April 30, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pete

      Thanks so much,Sierra.Put politics aside and have a heart,sharky didn't,you and I do.Take care,God Bless...

      April 30, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Frank

    People of the United States of America and President Obama,
    When someone is on the border line of being terminal,all the stops should be pulled out in order to give them a fighting chance to live.The family needs all the support necessary.

    April 30, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris R

      I disagree – Sometimes you need to know when to stop. Face – we are *all* going to die. This is a one way trip. I'm not saying we should simply stop fighting but you need to learn to accept that death is part of the process. Know when to stop.

      April 30, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Eva Zurek

    I'm so glad this came in.I only hope you have more years to come, and be there for your lovely son. My best wishes to you I know you will make it! My best.

    April 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris R

      Eva, I think your sentiment is wonderful but she's not going to make it. This *is* going to kill her. This drug may give her some more time – maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months – but she will die from this. If the cancer is stage iv it means it has already spread to other organs and regions of her body. Surgery is no longer an option. Chemo may help delay things. This drug may help delay things. But it's not a cure and isn't being touted as one. I'm sorry to get all realistic on you but saying things like "I know you are going to make it" to a stage IV cancer victim dealing with a terminal illness is not helpful and, in some ways, only displays a certain brand of willful ignorance – not cruel by any means – but purposefully being blind to the reality because of your own fears and apprehensions.

      April 30, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chrissy

    I can't imagine not being able to see my children grow up. This breaks my heart! Every day is a gift.. use it wisely.

    April 30, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. a little sad

    "Queen Bee

    You are truly blessed then Gretchen. I can quickly rattle off the top of my head at least eight people that I know that have had breast cancer (me included) and two of whom died from it, one just recently. If I put some thought into it, I could probably come up with more names than that. "

    I'm glad you made it, and am sorry for your friends.

    And I'm glad this lady got the medicine, and hope that it will work for her.

    I do not know anyone who has had breast cancer, but I know a plethora of people who have thyroid issues, like myself.

    I think it's one of those things where if you are affected by a disease, more people open up about who has had it, but if you're not, people are more likely not to mention they have had a particluar disease. Lord knows when I mention thyroid, people who want to share their experiences or questions seem to come out of the woodwork.

    I probably know several women who have had breast cancer, and there just isn't a reason to bring it up.

    April 30, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Light123

    My heart goes out to this woman. I hope she can get the drug. We are all so tired of these big companies and the redtape that surrounds government agencies. The FDA is so deep in the pockets of big companies that it would be hard to get them to put people before the profit. I'm not a socialist but this free market we are in is going to be the demise of the planet. There has to be accountability and responsiblity towards one another. This woman and millions of other peoples sickness, poverty and pain is the result of our society. Do you ever get the feeling that we took a wrong turn somewhere on the path to becoming good human beings and that we have it all completely and totally wrong? God bless her for putting out this video, I hope it makes us think about what we are really doing with our lives.

    April 30, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. kim

    I glad she got that chance with the new drug it lets know their are a lot of people out there that care enough to protest and get things done.

    April 30, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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