Currently, for most breast cancer patients the standard treatment for several generations of has been chemotherapy and/or radiation, with or without the additional surgical removal of the affected tissue. One of the first breakthroughs in breast cancer treatment was hormone treatment after the identification of the HER2 protein as a key factor in diagnosis. Since the mid-1990s, the HER2 protein was identified by pathologists in breast and other tumors. Eighty percent (80%) of breast cancers are classified as HER2-negative. This was used to predict treatment with drugs such as trastuzumab (Herceptin®). However, with better technology pathologists now have been able to pinpoint even lowers levels of HER2. This is a major breakthrough as HER2-targeted therapy has not been possible before in treating those with formally undetectable levels. In August of this year, a new drug called trastuzumab deruxtecan (T-DXd) designed specifically for breast cancer with lower levels of HER2 was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after a clinical trial led by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) breast medical oncologist Shanu Modi, who presented the findings at this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting.
Those who have been impacted by breast cancer know all too well that hope is everything. It is integral to the fuelling the will to fight on through the painful and debilitating treatments and the loss of hair, the loss of mammary glands, the loss of self that occurs and the strain on family and friends. For this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Marketing Mojo would like to focus on some reasons to be hopeful that the fight will not be in vein and there is light at the end of the tunnel for those given a diagnosis.
“The results of this trial are practice-changing and redefine how a large population of patients with metastatic disease will be treated. Although this trial focused on patients with breast cancer, we believe that these results could also have implications for the future treatment of people with other types of cancer that express HER2 at low levels.”- Dr. Shanu Modi
The results of the clinical trials for T-DXd (also known as Enhertu®) are extremely encouraging. In the majority of patients the cancer was in check nearly twice as long and increased their survival by about 35%. You can learn more about this breakthrough treatment on this podcast:
Fear of the cancer returning is often crippling for patients. However, there is new reason to hope and release those fears. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute has some good news. Women who survive breast cancer for at least five years after treatment have an 89% chance that they will not have a recurrence of the cancer after 10 years and an 81% chance after 15 years. This is the result of an extensive investigation involving 2,838 women diagnosed with breast cancer from 1985 to 2001 who had surgery to remove the original tumor, some of whom had radiation and took cancer prevention medication. Cancer returned after five years in only 7% of women treated for stage I breast cancer, 11% of women treated for stage II cancer and 13% of women treated for stage III cancer.
According to the Susan G. Koman Foundation, early detection still offers the best chance for survival. Stage 4 breast cancer, also known as metastatic breast cancer is the stage where cancer cells have traveled through your lymphatic system to your lungs, bones, liver, brain, or other organs.
Susan G. Koman Foundation Survival Rates
However there have been more women surviving late-stage breast cancer than ever before due to advances in treatment and better understanding of the disease. According to Cancer Research UK, twenty-five percent (25%) of women diagnosed with late stage breast cancer which is typically deemed incurable but controllable with treatment, can survive their cancer for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.
You still have some autonomy in your hands to make a brave stand against Breast Cancer before (prevention) and after (management) diagnosis. Preventative measures include:
Management measures include:
As technology and hindsight increase, we will have more ammunition in the fight against Breast Cancer. This month we want to encourage more of you to get informed and participate in activities that raise funds to help with treatment, especially here in the Caribbean where medical costs are prohibitive for most people. We want to erase stigma and increase open discussion and sharing life-stories. Below are some resources we recommend:
Face Of Cancer
Saint Lucia Cancer Society
Lake Health & Wellbeing
Caribbean Cancer Research Initiative