Breast cancer research: From symposium to doctor to patient

February 4, 2013 | by Tami Dennis

Before breast cancer research findings and treatment advances can make their way to large numbers of patients, they first must be shared, and considered, by physicians. That’s where the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium comes in.

breast tumor Mammograms are the standard in breast cancer detection. Here, a lateral mammogram of a female breast reveals a tumor.

“The symposium aims to achieve a balance of clinical, translational and basic research, providing a forum for interaction, communication and education for a broad spectrum of researchers, health professionals and those with a special interest in breast cancer,” says the symposium’s website.

But that’s just one step of the process. Now the doctors who attended the December event will take what they learned back to their peers. In a process formally known as continuing medical education, City of Hope physicians will offer a review of the symposium on Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Duarte campus.

The review is just for other physicians, but then they're the ones tasked with sorting through the data, parsing the results and then recommending treatment.

Joanne Mortimer, M.D.,  director of City of Hope’s Women’s Cancers Program, and surgeon Courtney A. Vito, M.D., will be the presenters.

“The most potentially practice-changing trials were the ATLAS and HERA trials,” says Mortimer. “ATLAS  demonstrated that the addition of five more years of tamoxifen (10 in all) resulted in improved disease-free and overall survival.”

“HERA randomized women with HER2-positive early-stage disease to chemotherapy with one or two years of tamoxifen. There was no additional benefit to two years over one year,” she says.

For breast cancer patients and survivors, the findings are significant.

Mortimer and Vito won’t limit their discussion to these two well-known and data-rich trials.

“We will review these trials, the lack of equivalence of six months of adjuvant Herceptin compared with 12 months, the benefit of 500 milligrams of Faslodex  in advanced postmenopausal endocrine-receptor (ER)positive breast cancer, health disparities in the use of sentinel lymph node mapping in African-American women and updates on the TARGIT and START A and B trials, which suggest that less radiation may be OK.”

To doctors, many of the findings may not be that surprising. But their patients will no doubt want to know.

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