As a reminder of what mattered most to our readers in 2018, here are the 10 most-read articles of last year, with a brief description of what made them interesting and relevant to breast cancer patients, family members, and caregivers.
In February, Merus opened an international Phase 2 clinical trial (NCT03321981) to explore its investigational antibody MCLA-128 as treatment for patients with HER2-positive or hormone receptor-positive/HER2-low metastatic breast cancer. The ongoing trial is enrolling at sites in the U.S. and Europe, and aims to include 120 women to explore combinations of MCLA-128 with Herceptin (trastuzumab, by Genentech) plus chemotherapy or with endocrine therapy.
No. 9 – “Ibrance-Faslodex Combo Improves Survival of Advanced Breast Cancer Patients, Phase 3 Trial Shows”
Patients with advanced breast cancer who no longer respond to hormone therapy seem to benefit from a combination of Faslodex (fulvestrant, by AstraZeneca) plus the CDK4/6 inhibitor Ibrance (palbociclib, by Pfizer), data from the PALOMA-3 Phase 3 trial (NCT01942135) showed. In this study, which included 521 patients with advanced hormone receptor-positive/HER2-negative breast cancer, the treatment combination (compared to Faslodex and placebo) extended survival from 28 to 34.9 months, and nearly doubled the time until chemotherapy was necessary — to 17.6 months versus 8.8 months.
No. 8 – “Radiation to Lymph Nodes in Chest Seen to Improve Breast Cancer Outcomes at 15 Years with Little Added Risk”
A great deal of attention was given to an approach that prevents breast cancer from returning. A clinical trial (NCT00002851), which followed more than 4,000 women with earlier-stage breast cancer for some 15 years, showed that radiation therapy applied to lymph nodes behind the breast bone and above the collar bone delays breast cancer recurrence and extends survival, compared to surgery to the breast and lymph nodes alone.
Women with denser breasts have higher changes of developing breast cancer, and breast density also makes it more difficult for clinicians to detect breast cancer lesions. BHR Pharma is testing a gel that reduces the density of breast tissue when applied directly to the breast. The treatment, BHR-700, contains a byproduct of the anti-cancer medicine tamoxifen, and is being studied in the 4WARD Phase 3 trial (NCT03199963) in roughly 300 women.
Determining the risk of cancer recurrence is of great importance to patients, helping to identify those most likely to benefit from treatment beyond the standard five years of hormone therapy. Researchers at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Queen Mary University of London made available an online prognostic tool, called CTS5, that predicts the risk for cancer recurrence and metastasis in women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, opening it to doctors making decisions that impact patients’ lives and quality of life.
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) developed a new imaging technology that scans the whole breast to spot possible tumors in about 15 seconds, providing detailed images without the need to painfully compress the breast, as happens in mammograms. The approach – called single-breath-hold photoacoustic computed tomography (SBH-PACT) – shines pulses of near-infrared light into the breast and may one day replace mammograms as the standard method for diagnosing breast cancer.
The American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) recognized for the first time that African-American women have a higher risk for breast cancer and should be screened accordingly. The new breast cancer screening guidelines propose that all women, in particular black women and those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, should be evaluated for breast cancer risk no later than by the age 30. (For women with an average disease risk, 40 years old is recommended for starting regular screening.)
No. 3 – “New Blood Test Quickly Predicts Ibrance Treatment Response in Breast Cancer Patients, Study Shows”
Finding if a treatment is working early is critical to deciding whether patients should continue receiving that treatment or be switched to an alternative one. Researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research developed a blood test that predicts how metastatic breast cancer will respond to Ibrance as early as two to three weeks after starting treatment. While the test needs additional study before it might be used in the clinic, the findings suggest that it could help to deliver the right treatment to the right patient much sooner than current approaches.
No. 2 – “Zejula-Keytruda Shows Promising Response Rates for Triple-negative Breast Cancer in Phase 1/2 Trial”
Triple-negative breast cancer patients are often the hardest to treat, but a clinical trial reported that a combination of Keytruda (pembrolizumab, by Merck) and Zejula (niraparib, by TESARO) reduced tumor burden in 28% of patients and stabilized the disease in an additional 22%. The soon-to-conclude TOPACIO Phase 1/2 trial (NCT02657889) included patients regardless of their BRCA mutational status. Responses were particularly better among those with BRCA mutations, who lived 8.3 months without signs of disease progression, beyond the three-to-five months seen with standard chemotherapy.
Last year’s most widely read article reported that some foods reduce the effectiveness of Ibrance and Femara (letrozole, by Novartis) — an approved treatment combination for some ER-positive breast cancer patients. Femara works to block estrogen production, but estrogen-like compounds in the diet can activate the estrogen receptor and induce cancer growth. Researchers recommend that patients receiving this treatment regimen should avoid or strictly limit consumption of soybeans, maize, barley, wheat, and other grains — foods containing in estrogen-like compounds called xenoestrogens.
Breast Cancer News hopes that these news articles, along with our continuing reporting throughout 2019, will help to educate, inform, and improve the lives of people living with breast cancer and their loved ones.
We wish all our readers a happy and inspiring 2019.