Breast cancer is one of the most studied cancers in the world. It seems as if there is a constant flow of information about new diagnostic techniques and treatments. All of this research is trying to accomplish one overall goal – a cure! Progress is encouraging; for women whose cancer is confined entirely to the breast, the five-year survival rate is 99 percent!
Foundations such as Albie Aware are excellent sources of information about the many medical advances that are occurring in the field of breast cancer research.
Here are five technologies that are showing promise in the fight against this disease:
1. Genetic testing
Knowing your chance of getting breast cancer in the first place is a starting point. If breast cancer is in your family, you may want to consider genetic testing. A small but significant number of cancers stem from mutations in genes such as BRCA1 or BRCA2. Knowledge is power – If you test positive for these gene mutations, you will be better able to make decisions that may prevent the disease from occurring. Your health care team will be able to help you develop strategies that fit your situation.
2. Advances in drug therapies
- A chemotherapy drug called Capecitabine, now used to treat metastatic (Stage 4) breast cancer, may also be effective when administered early in the disease process. And a study has indicated that the drug used after surgery reduced the risk of cancer recurrence.
- Inhibitors to cut off the nutrients that fuel the growth of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), a particularly aggressive form of the disease, is being studied. Telaglenastat or CG-839 has shown promise in denying the cancer cells a source of the energy they need to grow and spread.
- PARP [Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors] is a long name for a class of drugs that may reduce the odds of cancer cells becoming resistant to chemotherapy.
These are just three of many drugs under study or development to help fight breast cancer and other cancers as well.
3. Techniques for shortening radiation therapy
Small beads or rods containing radioactive material are being inserted temporarily during surgery for breast cancer (and prostate cancer). This internal radiation source is left in the body for only a few hours or days. This technique replaces external radiation, which might be administered up to a month.
4. Targeted therapies
The field of genetics is where some of the most exciting and encouraging advances in medicine is happening. Genetic research is helping to develop targeted therapies to combat breast cancer. As the name suggests, targeted therapy pinpoints specific cancers with fewer side effects, rather than the broad-based, disruptive techniques of the past. One targeted therapy blocks the effect of estrogen which can trigger tumors.
5. 3-D Mammography
Three-dimensional (3-D) Mammography is available now. It is also called breast tomosynthesis. It is similar to a regular 2-D mammogram in that it uses x-rays to detect anomalies in the breast. But 3-D shows breast tissue in greater detail, especially dense breast tissue. The goal is to reduce false positives. The Mayo Clinic suggests that combining 3-D and 2-D mammograms may lessen the need for follow-up imaging.
Research into the cause, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer is continuing on many fronts. Pharmaceutical companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies are all looking for the path that will lead to a cure. For questions about all aspect of breast cancer, please contact Albie Aware at (916) 927-1592 or email@example.com.
Susan G. Komen
National Cancer Institute