10 Things We Learned About Progress Against Cancer in 2015

A review of major developments in cancer research and breast cancer in 2015.Looking back over the past year, what were some of the big things we learned that contribute to the progress that’s being made against cancer?

Here are ten of the stories that stood out most for me. Some involved new treatments or evolving treatment approaches. Others were about important policy issues, including the high costs of cancer care, and the pressing need for solutions. And again this year we were reminded of the importance of accuracy when it comes to reporting about celebrity cancer stories. Continue reading

5 Cancer Research Stories Worth Following – Summer 2015

Cancer research news for Summer 2015 reflected a growing emphasis on matching patients with treatments based on the molecular characteristics of their cancer.What’s exciting in cancer research right now? In this post, I’ll review several of the most interesting cancer research stories that have been in the news this Summer.

These are a few of the recent stories that seem to have the greatest potential impact, at least from my perspective, and that I know I’ll want to follow as they develop further.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) held its annual meeting in June. A major theme reflected in numerous reports about the meeting was the need for more intensive efforts to match patients with treatments based on the molecular characteristics of their cancer, and incorporating this approach into clinical trials. Continue reading

Hormone Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer: A Look At New Research Findings

New research sheds light on the role of progesterone in hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.A recent article in the journal Nature describes some interesting new discoveries that have been made about the role of the hormone progesterone in hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.

The role of progesterone and its receptor in breast cancer has not been well understood. And there has been some controversy about the value of this biomarker in selecting treatment for patients.

The study results, if confirmed, could potentially lead to improved treatment options for women with this common sub-type of breast cancer. Continue reading

Ken Burns’ “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies”

The Ken Burns film Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies highlights the contributions of patients, especially children, to cancer research over the years.The Ken Burns film, “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies,” based on the book by Siddhartha Mukherjee, is a compelling story of the progress that’s been made against cancer over the last several decades.

And we have indeed come a long way in 30 or 40 years. Yet, as the move makes clear, we are far from a “cure” and continued investment in research is going to be critical to building on what has been learned and accomplished so far.

Continue reading

San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2014: Where Is Research Headed?

The 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium highlighted potential new treatment strategies that are opening up as a result of advances in understanding of cancer biology.Innovative new approaches to breast cancer treatment that were featured at the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium could eventually have a big impact on the way breast cancer is treated.

Potential new treatment strategies are opening up as a result of recent advances in knowledge of cancer biology as well as improved understanding of how our immune system functions.  Technological advances are playing a big role too. Continue reading

The I-SPY 2 Breast Cancer Trial: How Clinical Trials May Be Changing

Three pill bottles spilling.It takes a very long time–thirteen years on average–for a new cancer drug to be developed, go through the standard clinical trials process and become available for patients.

Only a fraction of oncology drugs studied in clinical trials are successful. And the cost is extremely high at hundreds of millions of dollars to bring one new drug to patients. These facts, and the reasons behind this dysfunctional process, are discussed by Clifton Leaf in his book, “The Truth in Small Doses,” which I recently reviewed.

What can be done to bring better therapies to patients more quickly? One approach that is being tested is called “adaptive” clinical trial design.

Continue reading

San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2013: What Did We Learn?

San Antonio skylineThe San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the latest findings in breast cancer research–directly from the researchers. I had attended last year for the first time, and was excited to be able to go to the event again this year.

There were some very intriguing presentations this year about possible new therapeutic approaches that are either now in clinical trials or will be entering them soon. In that vein, I’ll describe two areas of longer-term research that received a significant amount of coverage. Also very noteworthy were two sets of findings that could lead to less toxic treatments for some patients, and one study that could eventually lead to a new prevention strategy for women who are at high risk for breast cancer. Continue reading

Cancer Genome Studies: How Will They Help Patients?

DNA strand against a colored backgroundA new set of findings from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project was published recently, in the October 16, 2013 issue of the journal Nature.

Previous reports from this large ongoing project have shown that tumor cells for individual cancer types, such a breast cancer, colon cancer, etc. sometimes contain many more types of genetic mutations than was previously  known.

By contrast, this new report looks at cancer genome sequencing in a different way–comparing mutations across types of cancer. 

Overall, TCGA has been generating interesting, though somewhat controversial, findings. Continue reading

Review of “The Truth in Small Doses” by Clifton Leaf

In "The Truth in Small Doses," Clifton Leaf explains that the culture around cancer research has slowed progress.Last December, for the first time, I attended the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium as a patient advocate. Each year, thousands of oncologists and cancer researchers go to this event to hear about advances in breast cancer research and breaking results from important clinical trials.

I was excited to be attending, but was soon struck by the contrast between the enormous gains that are being made in understanding the biology of breast cancer, and the slow progress in translating these remarkable findings into clinical application. Reading Clifton Leaf’s book, “The Truth in Small Doses: Why We’re Losing the War on Cancer–and How to Win It,” has given me some food for thought as to why we may be facing this situation.

Continue reading