Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that usually forms in the glands that make milk (lobules) and the tubes (ducts) that carry milk to the nipple. This year about 231,8400 women (and 2,000 men) in the U.S. will be told by a doctor that they have breast cancer. Half of these people will be at least 61 years old. However, more than 10 times as many women, about 2.7 million, remain alive today after having been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast cancer is not one disease and is currently classified into 3 subtypes based on the receptors present on the surface of the cancer cell. If the tumor is positive for estrogen and/or progesterone receptors, it is called "hormone receptor breast cancer". In that case, drugs that block the hormones, such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors, might work best initially. If the tumor is positive for another type of receptor, called HER2 (or ERBB2), it is called "HER2 positive breast cancer", and certain targeted therapies that block HER2, such as the medications trastuzumab (Herceptin), pertuzumab (perjeta), T-DM1 (Kadcyla), and lapatanib (Tykerb) might work best and are recommended by the FDA. If the tumor is negative for HER2, estrogen, and progesterone receptors, it is called "triple negative breast cancer".
Over time, breast cancer (and other tumors) can spread from the site where it started (the primary tumor) in 3 ways. First, breast cancer cells can invade the normal tissue surrounding the tumor. Second, breast cancer cells can enter the lymph system and travel through lymph vessels to distant parts of the body. Third, the breast cancer cells can get into the blood stream and travel to other places in the body. In these distant places, the breast cancer cells cause secondary (metastatic) tumors to grow. The main sites where breast cancer spreads are the lungs, liver and bones. There is a lot of ongoing research to identify other receptors and mutations that are actionable through treatment using appropriate new targeted therapies that could be developed against the cancer.
Source: National Cancer Institute, 2015
Breast cancer is the most common non-cutaneous cancer among women in the United States. This year about 231,840 women (and 2,000 men) in the U.S. will be told by a doctor that they have breast cancer. Half of these people will be at least 61 years old. However, more than 10 times as many women, about 2.7 million, remain alive today after having been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Germline mutations in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene confer an increased risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer. In addition, mutation carriers may be at increased risk of other primary cancers. Genetic testing is available to detect mutations in members of high-risk families. Such individuals should first be referred for counseling. Breast cancer is commonly treated by various combinations of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.
Over the past years, significant major strides in understanding the biology of breast cancer have translated into actionable targeted therapies. For metastatic hormone receptor positive breast cancer, FDA approved therapies include tamoxifen, a selective estrogen modulator, aromatase inhibitors including exemestane, letrozole, and anastrozole, fulvestrant, a selective estrogen receptor blocker, and more recently everoliumus, a mTOR inhibitor, in combination with exemestane.
Despite significant improvements in the treatment of breast tumors, novel therapies and treatment strategies are needed. There are a number of novel therapies in development tailored to specific somatic mutations in the tumor.
Source: National Cancer Institute, 2014
Cancer research and treatments are constantly changing. Knowing the gene associated with your cancer can help doctors determine the most appropriate direction of care for you. To learn how you can find out more about genetic testing please visit http://www.massgeneral.org/cancer/news/faq.aspx
or contact the Cancer Center.
The mutation of a gene provides clinicians with a very detailed look at your cancer. Knowing this information could change the course of your care. To learn how you can find out more about genetic testing please visit http://www.massgeneral.org/cancer/news/faq.aspx
or contact the Cancer Center.