Headlines & Helpful Information, Research, Leadership
By: Krissa Smith
There’s been a lot of
news lately. So much news that if you haven’t been following every headline,
every day of the week, you might have missed something.
But that’s why I’m
here. As the Director of Research Programs for Susan G. Komen, I get to hear
all about the coolest and newest things happening in breast cancer research.
And there’s been some cool and new things happening for breast cancer patients
during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here’s what you might
Food and Drug Administration approved another new drug for metastatic
breast cancer patients. This drug, called Trodelvy, is for the treatment of metastatic triple
negative breast cancer.
targets a protein called Trop-2 and
delivers a drug that interferes with a cell’s ability to grow.
This is really good – and cool – news because metastatic triple negative breast cancer has few effective therapies
and often a poor prognosis.
negative (being negative) might sound good, especially when talking about
cancer, but it’s not great. When a tumor is positive for specific proteins, it
means the tumor has those proteins and they can be targeted with treatments,
which kill the tumor.
Breast cancers, for example, often rely on hormones like estrogen
or progesterone or other growth factors to really drive that tumor growth. The
types of tumors that have estrogen and sometimes progesterone proteins and are called
ER+/PR+ tumors. Treatment that
suppresses these hormones can really help slow tumor growth.
HER2 is another growth factor that was also found to drive a tumor
to grow aggressively. HER2 now has a specific treatment,
which can also slow tumor growth.
So what does this all mean?
Triple negative tumors don’t have estrogen or progesterone
proteins. They also don’t have HER2. They are ER-/PR-/HER2-. In other words,
they are triple negative. That means patients with these tumors have fewer
options for treatment and typically rely on chemotherapies that work to kill
all rapidly growing cells and often have worse side effects.
funded researcher, Dr. Aditya Bardia, was the lead investigator for the trial
Trodelvy and stated optimistically that, “this new drug will give
clinicians another tool for treating patients with triple negative breast
In other news you might have missed, a group of cancer researchers
virtually attended the 2020 American Association for Cancer Researcher
conference. On the agenda: COVID-19 and the impact to cancer patients.
research was presented there that confirmed cancer patients with blood or
lung malignancies, or metastatic tumors that have spread throughout the body, have
a higher risk of death or other severe complications from COVID-19 compared to
those without cancer.
This news is especially important for metastatic breast cancer
patients. Breast cancer most often metastasizes, or spreads, to the lungs, bone, liver, and brain,
so breast cancer patients need to be extra vigilant to avoid exposure to
respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19.
Breast cancer patients with metastatic breast cancer in the lungs have
always been advised to be careful about avoiding infection even from simple
colds and other respiratory
illnesses, but it’s even more important for their health now. And now
doctors have evidence to support recommendations they make to protect patients.
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