Breast cancer is a severe condition and one of the most diagnosed cancers in women. In 2023, The American Cancer Society estimates that around 297,790 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the country, with 55,720 new cases of ductal carcinoma in the situ and about 43,700 deaths.
While these numbers may sound jarring, it’s also important to note that breast cancer deaths have steadily decreased since 1989. In 2020, the overall decline was at least 43% which may be attributed to early detection of breast cancer through screening, increased awareness, and improved treatments. While the decline has slowed slightly in recent years, scientists have made it a point to continuously research possible breast cancer treatments and procedures to ensure these cases keep going down.
Latest Breast Cancer Research and Development in 2023:
Modern medicine has reached miraculous milestones in record time. From creating an immediate vaccine to combat the COVID-19 virus to continuously adding the latest information to medical literature, there is no doubt that we are constantly finding better and more effective treatments that benefit everyone.
In the field of breast cancer research, here’s a summary of the latest developments we know so far:
1. Improved Breast Screening Procedures.
Early detection of breast cancer is essential to increase one’s survivability rate. Some detection methods include mammography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound.
With improved technological developments in imaging, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is funding Tomosynthesis Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (TMIST). This 3D mammography diagnosis tool takes images from different angles around the breast and then builds them in a 3D-like image.
Currently, the TMIST trial is comparing the number of detecting advanced cancers in women in comparison to 2D mammography to see if 3D imaging would improve breast screening procedures for different breast cancer risk levels.
2. New Personalized Screening Methods.
Several physicians still use a one-size-fits-all approach to breast screening, where women over 40 are recommended to have annual mammograms. While it’s a good rule of thumb, we must also consider a person’s personal and family history and genetics.
Currently, the WISDOM (Women Informed to Screen Depending on Measures of Risk) study hopes to compare annual screening and risk-based screening, where the determining factor is each woman’s personal risk for breast cancer. This inclusive study will enable participants to choose the type of care they receive in the hopes of women getting the care they need. If successful, women will gain a realistic understanding of their personal risk for breast cancer while also developing strategies to reduce some risks. The study will also enable fewer women to suffer from the anxiety of false-positive mammograms and unnecessary treatment.
3. Using Gene-Expression Test For Determining Treatment Options
The TAILORx trial, or the Trial Assigning Individualized Options for Treatment (Rx), aims to guide women in making informed treatment decisions using a 21-gene expression test to assess a patient’s potential risk for cancer recurrence. By providing a scoring method to evaluate a patient’s risk, they may avoid chemotherapy while still in the early stages of breast cancer. Utilizing gene expression tests empower doctors and patients to make informed decisions while also reducing recurrence.
4. Hormone therapy developments:
A. For Advanced or metastatic HR-positive cancers.
Hormone therapies have become a staple for HR-positive cancer or cancer with hormone receptors. However, the latest development has shown that certain advancements may help patients with advanced or metastatic HR-positive cancers, prolonging a patient’s survivability until chemotherapy is needed. Some of the approved drugs include:
- Palbociclib (Ibrance),
- Ribociclib (Kisqali), and
- Everolimus (Afinitor)
B. For HER2-positive breast cancer
HER2-positive breast cancer is a breast cancer subtype that tests positive for the protein responsible for cancer cell growth. This protein is called the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).
Currently, the FDA has approved some of these options for treatment. Some of which include:
- Trastuzumab (Herceptin)
- Pertuzumab (Perjeta)
Note: Trastuzumab and pertuzumab may be combined with chemotherapy to prevent relapse for people with early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer. They can also be used in metastatic disease, which can help delay the progression of the HER2 protein.
- Tucatinib (Tukysa) combined with trastuzumab and capecitabine (Xeloda) is another treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer patients that can’t be removed via surgery or is metastatic.
What Do These Developments Mean?
While there are still some ongoing developments, it’s safe to say that the treatment options have considerably expanded for various patients. As medical care for breast cancer slowly shifts to a more personalized approach, scientists have been making great strides in providing care for patients with no symptoms and those with early or advanced signs.
Based on the information provided by the European Society for Medical Oncology, personalizing breast cancer care is one major factor in improving one’s outcomes. By screening and utilizing essential information from a patient’s personal and family history of breast cancer, a person can make better and more informed decisions concerning their treatment options.
Personalized medical care also has fewer side effects than the “one-treatment-for-all” approach due to the specificity of the individual seeking treatment. This approach empowers doctors and patients as they collaborate on a more grounded yet practical approach.
However, it’s important to note that personalized cancer care is unavailable for specific cancer types and subtypes. Nevertheless, some personalized treatments are only available in clinical trials, but with the promising developments, achieving this approach may come sooner than expected!
Current developments in breast cancer treatment, including screening methods, gene-expression tests, newly-approved medications, etc., are promising but still ongoing. While there is not yet a definitive cure for the disease, the survivability rate for the condition has improved in recent years. Despite a stall in the decline of death rates, these impressive discoveries have enabled more patients to survive longer and improve their overall quality of life.
Suppose you are over the age of 40. In that case, you may consider scheduling a screening immediately, even if you don’t have a history of breast cancer in your family. When it comes to health, one should always take it seriously, regardless of the risks, to ensure peace of mind and a better quality of life.