New Studies Offer Hope to Women With Early, Late Stage Breast Cancers

Every week seems to bring something new on the breast cancer research front, and this past week was no exception. Two new studies were announced on Thursday–one affecting older women with early-stage cancer and one affecting women with advanced cancers.

The first study discovered that women over age 70 may not need radiation for early-stage breast cancer. The study, conducted by the Avon Foundation Comprehensive Breast Evaluation Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, reported that women in this age group who are treated with lumpectomies and Tamoxifen do just as well as women who also undergo radiation. While the recurrence of breast cancer is slightly higher in the Tamoxifen-only group, the likelihood of dying from breast cancer is not increased. This is good news for anyone in that age group who wonders whether daily radiation for six weeks is worth it, and for those  who have already opted to forego it.

The other study, conducted by researchers at the biotech/pharmaceutical company Roche, combines two experimental antibody drugs. It’s being used on women with advanced breast cancer tumors that generate a protein called HER2. The women had previously been treated with other drugs. In the small, early-stage (phase Ib/II) trial, the drug combination shrank tumors in 40 percent of the women studied. The drugs are T-DM1 and pertuzumab. The Reuters report says a phase III study should be released in 2012.

Both studies will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting June 4-8 in Chicago.

It practically takes a scorecard to keep up with all these developments–the drug names and interactions alone can get a bit dense–but that’s a good thing. (As are the doctors who help guide us through this informational maze–God bless them all.) Treatments are getting better and breast cancer is being caught earlier than ever, but it’s still killing too many women. It’s nice to know that researchers aren’t sitting still.

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