When doctors told Tampa Bay, Fla., woman Darlene Gant earlier this year that her breast cancer had returned, they also gave her some good news: The biotech firm Genentech had developed a potentially lifesaving drug called Pertuzumab that was expected to be approved by the FDA in June.
But Gant, 46, knew that she might not live that long, so she and her husband decided to record a video pleading for the FDA to approve her use of the drug under the compassionate use clause, which states that patients can receive early trials of unapproved drugs if no other options are available, Bay News 9 report.
"In the meantime, no one is eligible for compassionate use, including me, so, although I don't put everything into Pertuzumab, it could stabilize me and help save my life and extend my time here on the earth with my 11-year-old son and my family," Gant said in the 20-minute YouTube video.
She also read messages for her son that she had written on a series of cards, including one meant for his 12th birthday.
"Did you always know I loved you?" she wrote in the birthday card. "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's video soon drew attention from media outlets and garnered tens of thousands of views on YouTube, compelling concerned users to call up the South San Francisco-based Genentech and plead for the early release of the drug. That week, they agreed.
According to ABC News, while Gant initially believed the FDA was prohibiting her from using the medication, it was actually Genentech that was refusing, despite a green light from the FDA.
Dr. Michael Hayes at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa said such a move is unusual, as compassionate use cases are usually initiated by the physician.
"It's generally not done with a patient initiative, it's generally through a physician," Hayes told Bay 9 News. "This is pretty unusual in this fact that it's gone pretty much national in this regard."
In the meantime, the FDA has given Pertuzumab priority review due to its success in treating HER2-positive breast cancer, which tends to be more aggressive than other breast cancers and is less responsive to treatments such as chemotherapy and hormone therapy.
According to the Washington Post, metastatic breast cancer patients who received Pertuzumab in clinical trials in combination with other treatments lived 12.5 months to 18.5 months longer.
In her YouTube video, Gant said she hopes her words inspire other breast cancer patients to fight for better treatments.
“It's horrible that in all this time, from 1950 all the way up to 2012, we're using some of the same drugs," Gant said. "We're doing the same things. Slicing off breasts and slicing off pieces of people and then giving radiation and chemotherapy. We’re poisoning people. We're doing the same thing. There has to be another way."
WATCH Gant's video above.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the FDA approved Darlene Grant to receive Pertuzumab three weeks after she posted the YouTube video. The FDA approved her for treatment the same week. The Huffington Post regrets the error.