A Reason to Be Hopeful: 5 New Breast Cancer Breakthroughs
A May report announced that a new genetic test might be able to predict which patients with highly aggressive tumors are more likely to survive postchemotherapy. And German researchers have identified a molecular marker that may indicate how well triple-negative cancers (the hardest kind to treat) will respond to chemotherapy.
The ability to identify whether a patient will do better with one type of chemotherapy over another would save patients from unnecessary drugs that can cause devastating side effects or have no effect at all.
In about 40 percent of breast cancer patients, the disease spreads to the lymph nodes in the armpit. Doctors determine whether metastasis has occurred by surgically removing a few nodes; if those nodes are cancerous, ten to 30 more may be removed—a procedure that can have debilitating side effects (including chronic swelling in the arm and chest). But a recent study found that this operation had no effect on survival rates for early-stage cases: The patients who had no further nodes removed had a prognosis as good as patients who had at least ten removed.
With further study, Rhodes suspects the approach could become standard care for certain types of patients.
A trial conducted by the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group found that in postmenopausal women, a class of estrogen-lowering drugs called aromatase inhibitors can shrink some stage II and III tumors enough to allow for a lumpectomy instead of mastectomy.
The drugs could prove pivotal in reducing the national mastectomy rate of 37 percent.
Learn more about the fight against breast cancer:
- 3 women share their stories of survival
- The power of pink: 19 stylish buys that support breast cancer research
- What you need to know about breast self-exams