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Here are additional studies that were presented at the 2009 Breast Cancer Symposium:
- A study suggested that women with HER2-positive breast cancer (cancer that uses a protein called HER2 to grow) that was small and had not spread to the lymph nodes were less likely to have a recurrence after treatment when they received trastuzumab (Herceptin) in addition to chemotherapy, compared with those treated with chemotherapy alone. Trastuzumab is a type of targeted therapy, which targets faulty genes and proteins that contribute to cancer growth, and is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat HER2-positive cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes.
- New research demonstrated that three common types of partial breast irradiation (PBI) were similarly effective for treating early-stage breast cancer. PBI is radiation therapy that is given directly to the tumor area, instead of the entire breast usually after a lumpectomy. The three methods tested include interstitial brachytherapy (implanting small, radioactive pellets near the breast), 3D-external-beam therapy, and MammoSite (a type of balloon catheter containing a radioactive source placed near the breast). PBI is still being researched in ongoing clinical trials.
- A study on deep-inspiration breath hold (DIBH) showed that using this technique with another called active breathing control (ABC) during radiation therapy to the left breast reduced radiation exposure to the heart and lungs. During DIBH, radiation is given while a woman holds her breath for several seconds, keeping the chest still.
- An analysis of women being treated for breast cancer showed that 69% had low levels of vitamin D. In the study, vitamin D deficiency was more common for non-Caucasian women and women being treated for later-stage breast cancer. Researchers also found that weekly high-dose vitamin D (50,000 international units, IU) supplementation showed more of an increase in levels of vitamin D in the blood than low-dose supplementation. More research is needed on the role of vitamin D and breast cancer. Talk with your doctor before taking any supplements.