This section contains the latest highlighted research for patients from ASCO medical journals, including the Journal of Clinical Oncology, as well as an archive of research highlights from previous ASCO scientific meetings (2011-2015). For the latest research highlights from more recent ASCO meetings, visit the Cancer.Net Blog or check out Cancer.Net’s audio podcasts and videos for patients.
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Women who have a higher risk of the cancer developing in the other breast often have at least two first-degree relatives with breast or ovarian cancer and/or have changes in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. In this survey, women who had those risk factors were more likely to choose CPM. However, worry about recurrence also caused women to choose CPM, as 90% of women who received CPM said they were “very worried about recurrence” compared with 80% of women who received a mastectomy for only the breast with cancer.
In a recent study, researchers found that a new device called MarginProbe helps make sure enough tissue is removed during a lumpectomy. A lumpectomy is the removal of the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue, called a margin, during an operation. Currently, surgeons often have to wait one or two weeks to find out if the tissue around the tumor that was removed during surgery contains cancer cells. Because of this, up to 40% of women who have had a lumpectomy need to have more surgeries to remove this additional cancerous tissue.
Using a specialized 21-gene test of a breast tumor’s genes, researchers found that the result, called a Recurrence Score (RS), predicted the prognosis (chance of recovery) for patients with estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer that has spread to the axillary (underarm) lymph nodes. Previous studies have shown that these 21 genes help predict the risk of recurrence (cancer that comes back after treatment) and the risk of death from cancer for women with breast cancer that has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.
In a recent review of previous studies, researchers found that bone scans, liver ultrasounds, and chest x-rays are not good tests for finding cancer that has spread for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer who have no symptoms of the disease. Bone scans, liver ultrasounds, and chest x-rays are called imaging tests and are used to create pictures of the inside of the body. These tests are often used to find possible metastases (areas where cancer has spread), but there is no standard procedure or solid evidence that they are beneficial in this situation.
A new simulation study indicates that women with stage II breast cancer who have a high risk of the cancer remaining in their axillary (underarm) lymph nodes after treatment, called residual nodal disease, may benefit from having these lymph nodes removed in a procedure called an axillary lymph node dissection. Women who have more cancerous lymph nodes in the underarm generally have a higher risk of residual nodal disease. Cancer in this area is found through a sentinel lymph node biopsy. A sentinel lymph node biopsy is the removal of one or a few lymph nodes in the underarm to look for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, additional treatment may be needed.
Giving either of two newer and more costly drugs, nanoparticle albumin-bound paclitaxel (Abraxane; called nab-paclitaxel) and ixabepilone (Ixempra), did not work better to treat locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer than standard chemotherapy with paclitaxel, according to a large study. Locally advanced breast cancer is cancer that has spread to parts of the body near the breast. Metastatic breast cancer has spread to other, more distant parts of the body.
In a recent study, researchers found that the new drug trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1) worked better to control the growth of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer than the current standard treatment. HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body and has too much of a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). The current standard treatment for this type of breast cancer is chemotherapy with capecitabine (Xeloda) combined with the targeted therapy lapatinib (Tykerb). Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the cancer's specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival.
A new study published online February 27, 2012 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that breast cancer survivors who were treated with a common chemotherapy regimen between 1976 and 1995 show worse cognitive performance than women of the same age who never had cancer. The differences emerged mainly in the domains of learning, memory, information processing speed and psychomotor speed. This is the first study to show that such problems, which are known to occur shortly after treatment, may also be present even 20 years after treatment.
An analysis of more than 3,000 families including women with breast cancer has found that close relatives of women who carry mutations in a BRCA gene - but who themselves do not have such genetic mutations - do not have an increased risk of developing breast cancer compared to relatives of women with breast cancer who do not have such mutations.
Two recent studies showed that women younger than 40 with breast cancer who had a lumpectomy had a similar risk of recurrence (cancer that comes back after treatment) and lived as long as those who had a mastectomy. A lumpectomy (also called breast-conservation therapy or surgery) is the removal of the tumor in the breast and some of the surrounding healthy tissue. A mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast. Being diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age is considered a risk factor for breast cancer recurrence, and studies have shown that more young women are choosing mastectomy instead of lumpectomy even though research has not shown that women who choose mastectomy live longer than those who choose lumpectomy.