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The Latest in Breast Cancer Research

Research Advances Presented at the 2009 Breast Cancer Symposium


Women with Small Node-Negative HER2+ Breast Tumors Appear to Benefit from Adjuvant Trastuzumab
A study suggested that women with HER2-positive breast cancer 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 not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat HER2-positive cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes.

Use of Deep-Inspiration Breath Hold Technique Reduces Heart and Lung Exposure to Radiation
A study on deep-inspiration breath hold showed that using this technique with another called active breathing control 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. This allows radiation to be delivered when the chest is still, rather than during the normal motion associated with free breathing.

Three Forms of Partial Breast Irradiation Produce Similar Outcomes
New research demonstrated that three common types of partial breast irradiation were similarly effective for treating early-stage breast cancer. The three methods tested include interstitial brachytherapy, 3D conformal external beam therapy, and MammoSite.

Younger Women with DCIS Are More Likely to Have Breast Cancer Return
According to a new study, women with ductal carcinoma in situ who are age 44 or younger have almost double the risk of recurrence after lumpectomy and radiation therapy than women age 45 and older. “Further research is necessary to determine the causes of this difference and to determine the best treatment for younger women with DCIS,” says lead author Iwa Kong, md, a breast oncology research fellow in the department of Radiation Oncology at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and University of Toronto. “It is important to add that these findings do not imply that all young women with DCIS need to undergo more aggressive surgery, such as a mastectomy, to reduce recurrence risk.”

Vitamin D Deficiency Prevalent with Breast Cancer Treatment
An analysis of women being treated for breast cancer showed that 69 percent had low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to decreased bone mineral density. Researchers also found that weekly high-dose vitamin D (50,000 IU) supplementation showed more of an increase in levels of vitamin D in the blood than low-dose supplementation.

Ultrasound May Reduce Need for Second Surgeries for Some Women with Early-Stage Breast Cancer
Researchers found that an ultrasound of the underarm lymph nodes before breast-conserving surgery spared nearly one-third of women with early-stage node-positive breast cancer from having a second surgery to remove these additional lymph nodes. In this study, axillary ultrasound was used to detect macrometastases before surgery so that these lymph nodes could be removed at the same time as the initial breast surgery.

New Methods of Tumor Analysis May Predict Effectiveness of Chemotherapy
Researchers have validated a new method of tissue analysis, called tissue microarrays, to determine the “intrinsic subtype” of a breast tumor and to predict whether a woman with breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes will benefit from adjuvant paclitaxel (Taxol®) chemotherapy. Use of breast cancer subtyping to predict response to a specific anticancer drug will improve physicians’ ability to personalize treatment.

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For more breast cancer research news from the Symposium, sponsored by the American Society of Breast Disease, The American Society of Breast Surgeons, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society for Radiation Oncology, the National Consortium of Breast Centers, and The Society of Surgical Oncology, go to Cancer.Net and click on Cancer News and Meetings.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2009.