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The “90210” and “Charmed” star said she remains hopeful that cancer treatments will help extend her life another 3 to 5 years while new potential advancements are being discovered. Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
  • Actor Shannen Doherty recently shared that she hopes future advancements in cancer treatment will extend her life another three to five years.
  • The star was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. In 2023 she revealed the cancer had spread to her brain and bones.
  • Targeted therapies and immunotherapeutics may improve the outlook for patients with metastatic breast cancer .

Shannen Doherty is hoping future advancements in cancer treatment will help her live another three to five years.

Speaking on an episode of her “Let’s Be Clear” podcast with oncologist Dr. Lawrence Piro, Doherty discussed how she hopes new treatments will extend her life.

The star best known for her roles in “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Charmed” was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. She went into remission in 2017, but was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2020.

In 2023, the actress revealed that the cancer had spread to her brain and bones.

“I always talk about the fact that we just need to squeeze out another three to five years, and then there’s going to be T-cell therapy or there’s going to be this,” she said on the podcast episode. “There’s going to be a lot more options that will give another five years. Then in those five years, there’s a whole other group of options, and eventually, there’s going to be a cure.”

Piro noted how cancer treatment has evolved in recent years, saying there are “many different chapters [to living with cancer now].”

He continued, “I always say that it’s important to think of each therapy as a horse, and in a horse race, you want to ride every horse as long as it rides, and then you ride the next horse as much as possible… you hope you make it a few laps then there’s altogether another new set of horses to ride, to make the race that much longer.”

The podcast episode offers a message of hope for those undergoing treatment for metastatic breast cancer and serves as a reminder that, in time, novel and innovative treatments may become available.

Dr. Nathan Goodyear, medical director at Brio Medical, a holistic, integrative cancer healing center in Scottsdale, Arizona, says, currently, the conventional standard for stage 4 brain and bone metastasis will be to target the metastatic sites through the same previously employed conventional standards: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

However, he says immunosuppression from prior treatments will present itself with additional myelosuppression – also known as bone marrow suppression.

“The horse analogy here needs to be corrected, as the primary horse for fighting cancer, the immune system, has been irreparably harmed,” he explains. “The harm and suppression done to CD8 T cells is long-lasting, with the potential for CD4 T cells destined never to recover.”

Goodyear believes that new ideas, innovation, and a focus on healing are needed.

Maryam Lustberg, director of the Center for Breast Cancer and chief of breast medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital, says some promising advancements are already underway.

“The most promising advances in breast cancer include the development of smarter, more targeted therapies, including antibody drug conjugates, which more effectively deliver chemo to tumor cells,” she says.

“We are expecting dozens of new antibody drug conjugates to enter clinical trials in the future and we already have several of these drugs approved for routine use,” says Lustberg.

“We are also working on earlier, more sensitive detection methods to diagnose occult metastatic disease so that perhaps more effective treatments can be delivered earlier. These include blood-based biomarkers such as circulating tumor DNA.”

According to Goodyear, immunotherapeutics is another new therapy recently added to the oncology armamentarium. Using immunotherapy checkpoint inhibitors, this treatment seeks to unmask the tumor and direct an immune attack.

“Yet, positive objective results are found in less than 40% of patients,” Goodyear notes.

Like Lustberg, he says targeted therapies are adding to treatment possibilities. “Targeted therapies are a new class of medications that target specific pathways cancer cells use to grow, survive, and thrive,” he explains.

“It is the dawn of precision medicine: the right treatment for the right patient, at the right point, at the right time.

“However, targeted therapies are approaching cancer via the same obstructive and war mentality of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and conventional immunotherapy, which will limit its impact.”

Ultimately, Goodyear believes patients like Doherty need an integrative and individualized approach that “targets cancer as a metabolic disease, not a genetic disease, one that seeks to heal, to reprogram, not to wage war.”

From a conventional cancer perspective, he says there is little hope for sustained remission for patients in a similar position to Doherty.

However, that is not to say that advancements won’t offer a more positive outlook in the future.

While you can never mitigate your breast cancer risk entirely, Goodyear says practicing sustainable healthy lifestyle habits is the best way to ensure you’re doing everything you can to lower your risk.

“A lifestyle which supports and balances nutrition and exercise, manages stress, supports sleep, builds the immune defenses [is what’s needed], he says.

Additional ways to help lower your risk of breast cancer include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • reducing your alcohol intake
  • being physically active
  • eating a well-balanced diet

Crucially though, Lustberg says it’s important to remember that being diagnosed with cancer does not mean that you did anything wrong.

“I must emphasize that breast cancer is a common cancer and the most important risk factor for it remains being female,” she points out. “Getting routine breast cancer screening (starting at age 40 for those at average risk and sooner for those at higher risk) allows the earliest diagnosis of breast cancer at the earliest stage.”

Goodyear says patients like Doherty should never give up hope. “Hope is merely the confidence in and for a future,” he points out.

Cancer survival rates have improved dramatically in the past number of decades, and while the outlook for patients like Doherty may seem poor, treatments are always advancing.

It is hard to predict what life-extending treatments may be available in the next three to five years.