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5 Breast Cancer News HighlightsFrom the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

Each year, top researchers, scientists, physicians and advocates from around the world converge upon San Antonio to share the latest developments, discoveries and innovations around breast cancer news. Here are just a few of the highlights from December 2014’s meetings:

  1. Tumors are heterogeneous (diverse in character) and have subtypes. In other words, not every cancer cell in the tumor necessarily carries the same mutations, which means a biopsy may not give you the full picture of the tumor. It also means that when tumors metastasize, cancer cells in different parts of the body might have different mutations.

  2. Researchers are still uncovering all of the ways estrogen affects breast cancer. The IBIS Breast Cancer Prevention Study showed that the women who took HRT (hormone replacement therapy) did not benefit from Tamoxifen, illustrating again the link between HRT and breast cancer risk.

  3. Immunotherapy (the prevention or treatment of disease with substances that stimulate the immune response) is a hot topic in breast cancer. One promising area of research explores the relationship between tumor infiltrating lymphocytes and treatment response. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that can be either T cells or B cells. When these cells respond to a tumor, they infiltrate the area around the cancer cells. Studies have discovered that patients whose tumors have had the most infiltration have better outcomes. Scientists believe this is because in these cancers, the immune system is actively working to slow or stop tumor growth.

  4. Researchers reported updated findings from the Women’s Intervention Nutrition Study, a randomized study started in 1987 that looked at whether reducing dietary fat would reduce the risk of a breast cancer recurrence in postmenopausal women who had been treated with surgery and adjuvant therapy for invasive breast cancer.After 20 years of follow up, when the researchers looked at the women by tumor type, they found that the low-fat diet increased survival by about two years in women who had hormone-receptor negative (ER- and/or PR-negative) or triple negative (ER-, PR- and HER2-negative) tumors.

  5. Many women diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) will not go on to develop invasive breast cancer, but there is currently no way to determine who those women are. Genomic Health (developers of the Oncotype DX test) has developed a test for women with DCIS that could identify which women needed radiation after surgery. Findings from a new study indicate the breast cancer recurrence rate after 10 years was 19.2%. In other words, 80% of the women were fine 10 years later. If a woman had a low score on the DCIS test, her risk of recurrence was 12.7%; if she had an intermediate score, her recurrence risk was 27.8%, and if she had a high score, her risk of recurrence was 33%. The Genomic Health test accurately predicted the 100 recurrences (57 invasive and 44 DCIS).