I am headed home from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting that was held in Chicago over the past 5 days. The meeting is huge, with over 25,000 people in attendance. Although it is an exhausting few days for many of us, it is also a tremendous opportunity to share observations and advances with colleagues from around the world.
From a breast cancer perspective, there were no earth shattering findings. At the same time, there were a number of important presentations that helped us gain a better understanding of breast cancer treatment. And, our colleagues who care for patients with melanoma and other malignancies rejoiced over major advances. As a breast cancer doctor, I take great encouragement from these advances, because they arise from an ever more sophisticated understanding of how we can harness our knowledge of cancer biology to improve the treatments for our patients. Progress in other cancers make it that much more likely we will see major breast cancer advances in the years ahead.
So what were the highlights this year?
We learned that some patients, particularly those with positive lymph nodes at the time of an axillary lymph node dissection, will benefit from more comprehensive radiation treatments. Administering radiation to the breast and the surrounding lymph nodes after a lumpectomy, instead of simply giving radiation to the breast, led to fewer recurrences both in the lymph nodes and in other parts of the body. For many radiation oncologists, this study will change the way they administer radiation to some patients.
Of course, there were many other important findings, but I have tried to provide the highlights. We do continue to make progress in the battle against breast cancer, and advances – sometimes small, sometimes large – occur on a monthly basis.
As I attended session after session at ASCO, I was also very pleased to see all of the outstanding work Susan G. Komen for the Cure® is supporting. This work is made possible by all of the thousands of volunteers who work so very hard and raise funds for our Komen grants program. It is truly a team effort.