Explained: Breast cancer treatment options of today – and tomorrow
June 11, 2015 | by Tami Dennis
When explaining breast cancer treatment options, breast cancer specialists typically discuss the best therapies currently available, working with their patients to create the most effective treatment regimens. Recently, however, City of Hope specialists – in oncology, surgery and immunology – came together to discuss not only the best treatments of today, but also the most-promising treatments of tomorrow, explaining to current patients how very different therapeutic options could look in the not-too-distant future.
Leading the session was James Waisman, M.D., clinical professor at City of Hope, a specialist not only in breast cancer oncology, but in connecting with his patients. Waisman understands just how much patients want to know about breast cancer treatment and where it’s going. On Sunday, June 7, Waisman hosted what he calls a patient research update, a primer specifically for patients about the latest avenues in breast cancer research.
With him were Yuman Fong, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery, and Peter P. Lee, M.D., the Billy and Audrey L. Wilder Professor in Cancer Immunotherapeutics and chair of the Department of Cancer Immunotherapeutics and Tumor Immunology.
“We wanted to give patients the most current up-to-date vision about the direction of breast cancer treatment, with the goal to fundamentally shift the way patients with advanced breast cancer are treated,” Waisman said. The vision? “Much less toxicity and much better outcomes.”
His colleagues at the presentation had more than a little to say about that approach.
"Lee is at the leading edge in immunotherapy for breast cancer, which we now understand may be the most important direction for treating triple-negative breast cancer,” Waisman said, pointing out that, at the present time, the disease has no clear identifiable target. “Mobilizing the immune system for triple-negative breast cancer will be a paradigm shift.”
As for Fong, he presented a future in which treatment is no longer dictated by disease type. A pioneer in the surgical treatment of liver cancer, Fong has developed anti-cancer therapies with viruses, a use that he is translating from liver cancer to breast cancer. The potential is enormous.
Said Waisman: “This shows the future of – we'll call it cross-pollination – learning from other areas of cancer research and bringing those therapies into new areas, in my case breast cancer. That is the future where we're no longer going to be limited by a disease type, but will be learning from others in basic science, translational science and clinical science to synergize across disciplines to optimize the care of patients.”
Waisman himself offered the low-down on some well-publicized, but not well-understood, research results. Among them: The impact of dietary-fat reduction as a part of cancer therapy, the ability to predict recurrence risk in women treated with breast-conserving surgery, a comparison of two chemotherapy drugs, carboplatin and docetaxel, and a different comparison of the effectiveness of the drug anastrozole compared to tamoxifen.
City of Hope's physicians understand what their patients want, and need, to know – that the future of breast cancer treatment is changing for the better.
Learn more about breast cancer treatment and research at City of Hope.
Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.