• Susan G. Komen®: New Report Underscores Critical Need to Document Cases of Metastatic Breast Cancer


    A new study estimates that there are 154,794 women living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) in the U.S. and acknowledges improvements in median survival and 5-year relative survival rates for women diagnosed with de novo MBC.

    The study, which is a collaboration between the National Cancer Institute, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance (MBCA), of which Susan G. Komen is a founding member, reported –a two-fold increase in 5-year relative survival rates for people originally diagnosed with de novo MBC since the 1990s, and projects a potential 31 percent increase in people living with metastatic breast cancer between 2010 and 2020. This increase is attributed to improvements in treatment strategies for those living with MBC.

    “This is an important step in ensuring that we truly understand the exact impact of MBC and ensure that the needs of people living with MBC are met,” said Susan G. Komen interim president and CEO Ellen Willmott. “We are looking – as an organization and as a founding member of the MBCA – to better identify those living with metastatic disease, and for treatments and services that will enhance survival specifically for metastatic disease.”

    Metastatic breast cancer is also known as Stage IV breast cancer and refers to cancer that has spread from the breast to distant organs, usually the brain, liver, bones or lungs. About 6 percent of cases are diagnosed as metastatic at the outset; the study estimates that three out of four metastatic cases are in women or men who have been treated for an earlier stage of breast cancer. While treatable, MBC is currently not curable. Treatment of metastatic breast cancer focuses on length and quality of life.

    The study, published today in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, was commissioned by the MBCA and led by Angela Mariotto, Ph.D., chief of the Data Analytics Branch of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), with coauthors from NCI, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

    “These improvements tell us that progress is being made in the treatment of metastatic disease, but there are significant challenges still to overcome,” said Stephanie Birkey Reffey, Ph.D., Sr. Director of Evaluation & Outcomes for Komen and co-chair of the MBCA Research Taskforce. “This publication is breaking new ground in estimating the number of women currently living with MBC, including those who experienced a recurrence of breast cancer – information that is not routinely collected or reported.”

    Among the highlights from the study:

    • Between 1992 and 1994, and 2005-2012, five-year relative survival rates have doubled – from 18 percent to 36 percent -- for women 15-49 years old who were initially diagnosed with de novo metastatic disease.
    • Median survival time for that same age group increased from 22.3 months to 38.7 months, and improved from 19.1 months to 29.7 months for women diagnosed at ages 50-64.
    • About 11 percent of women younger than 64, and diagnosed between 2000-2004, survived 10 years or more. 

    The report, however, also shows that the number of people living with metastatic breast cancer has grown as a result of improved treatments and the aging population, by 4 percent from 1990 to 2000 and 17 percent from 2000 to 2010. The researchers estimate that that number will increase by 31 percent between 2010 and 2020.

    Komen has identified the need to improve treatments and services for those living with metastatic breast cancer as a key component in its 10-year Bold Goal to reduce U.S. breast cancer deaths by half by 2026.  This goal will be achieved through research and collaboration with government and other breast cancer organizations such as the MBCA.

    Komen is the largest non-profit funder of breast cancer research outside of the federal government, with $920 million invested to date, including $166 million into research focused on MBC. For more information on metastatic breast cancer, visit www.komen.org.