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Breast cancer: research update.


Thanks to Linda Vahdat, MD, for providing this guest column.

2016 has been a good year for breast cancer. There has been continued movement in the translation of our research knowledge into the clinic, and several large trials have reported out, which has added clarity to how we should take care of patients. Largest among the trials is an extended study that unequivocally demonstrates that 10 years of an aromatase inhibitor, letrozole, is superior to five years of letrozole therapy for preventing a recurrence of hormone receptor-positive (HR+) breast cancer. This is consistent with almost all of the clinical trials that have been done to determine optimal duration of using a hormone therapy to treat HR+ breast cancer: Longer is better.

This past year, we also saw the approval of another drug, palbociclib (brand name Ibrance), that improves the effectiveness of hormonal therapy. This is a drug that targets and disrupts the ability of a cancer cell to divide. Clinical trials demonstrated that the addition of palbociclib to an aromatase inhibitor or to fulvestrant (brand name Faslodex) almost doubled the time that these hormonal therapies worked. As a result, patients have more options when they are considering hormonal therapy.

Patients with a difficult-to-treat breast cancer called triple-negative breast cancer also saw advances in treatment options. At the top of the list is an antibody-drug conjugate called sacituzumab govitecan. In trials, this drug was able to shrink more than 70 percent of the cancers for long periods of time. Because it is so promising, it received "Breakthrough" designation from the FDA, paving the way for accelerated approval. The breast cancer medical oncology research group at Weill Cornell Medicine has been integrally involved in the development of this novel compound. In other research, Dr. Silvia Formenti, the Chair of Radiation Oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine, is evaluating innovative strategies to harness the immune system to fight breast cancer that go several steps beyond the conventional immunotherapy approach. We anticipate taking a big leap forward in 2017.--Column by Linda Vahdat, MD, a physician at the Breast Center at Weill Cornell Medicine.



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Author:Vahdat, Linda
Publication:Women's Health Advisor
Date:Oct 1, 2016
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