TODAY   |  September 14, 2013

New hope for breast cancer patients

An FDA panel has backed a pre-surgery drug that doctors say could help women fight breast cancer earlier -- and live longer cancer-free. Full FDA approval could come as early as next month. NBC’s John Yang reports.

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>>> a promising new use of a drug that doctors say could help women fight breast cancer earlier and live longer and kansas city -free. an fda committee has given it full committee approval and full approval could come next month. here is john yang .

>> reporter: for the 230,000 women diagnosed this year with early breast cancer , there may soon be an earlier treatment. a drug called perjeta the first the fda has proofed to given to patients before surgery. doctors hope using drugs earlier could help shrink tumors and making them easier to remove. in some cases, it could mean video game removal of the full breast.

>> it allows us to have choices for these women. so that not everyone needs to have a mastectomy.

>> reporter: the drug helps block a protein called her2 and believed to play a role in at many of a quarter of all cases. they estimate 15,000 able to use it. genentech which makes the drug says women in its study used perjeta as a presurgical treatment for 12 weeks, 39% found their cancer came undetectable. among those who didn't use it, only 21% achieved that result. the move toward fda approval reflects the agency's push for faster action on potentially life saving treatments.

>> a lot of the drugs take a long time to get approved and with this newer approach, it is possibly that the drugs will come online faster.

>> reporter: the drug maker now is in evidence of possible side effects , including an increased rate of heart problems, but an fda panel says that's outweighed by the possibility of pushing survival rates higher. for "today," john yang , nbc news, chicago.