Now, doctors are focusing on cutting off the cancer's energy source to kill it from the inside out.
Susan Nelson was told she had 17 months to live.
"I couldn't read. I had to keep repeating things over and over again," Nelson told Ivanhoe.
Nineteen months after her brain cancer diagnosis, Nelson's still able to garden. She's hardly missed a day of work as the Dean of Theological School. The reality of it all hit hard during a speech to colleagues.
"I wasn't getting the word straight, and the way I got through it is I told everyone, I'm healing from a brain tumor, and the stuff I'm going to tell you is really important stuff," Nelson recalled.
She believes a new drug is giving her more time.
"The idea is that you'll have treatments that target the cancer cells but don't make the patients sick," Paul Mischel, MD a professor of pathology at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles, Calif., explained.
UCLA pathologist Paul Mischel is working on ways to kill brain cancers by starving them to death.
"The cancer cells actually create their own energy factories as well as their own fat factories," Dr. Mischel said.
The cancers use these fat cells to grow, divide and move.
"We actually blocked the genes that made the fatty acids, and we used drugs that interfered with the production of fatty acids," Dr. Mischel said.
It cuts off the cancer's energy source.
"In doing so, it actually killed the cancer cells," Dr. Mischel explained.
For Nelson, it's given her more time to do the things she loves and be with the people she cares about most.
"The of the things that I love is my colleagues. They understand," Nelson said.
Drugs that turn the production of fatty acids off are already being used in weight loss meds, but that could be toxic for cancer patients. The focus now is figuring out how to turn off fatty acids without the deadly side effects.
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UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
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