From an article by
Dr. Viji Motilal Nehru
McLeod Oncology & Hematology Associates
Numerous medical breakthroughs open new possibilities for survival of women with breast cancer.
“Although many cancer patients benefitted from oncology advancements, breast cancer patients are some of the most fortunate,” says McLeod Oncologist Dr. Viji Motilal Nehru. “Thanks to medical research into breast cancer, discovery of new drugs continues to change the lives of patients tremendously and improve survival.”
Here is a timeline of the new discoveries:
- Tamoxifen. In 1962, the US Food & Drug Administration approved Tamoxifen for treating women to avoid relapse of breast cancer. In 1998, another study revealed that Tamoxifen decreased the risk of developing breast cancer by 50% in high-risk women. Women with a sister or mother experiencing breast cancer, are considered high risk themselves. Further, 2013 research indicated that by adding an additional five years of treatment to the initial five years gave women a prolonged decrease in breast cancer risk.
- Raloxifene, Evista. A 2006 study found that Raloxifene (Evista) reduced breast cancer risk in high-risk, post-menopausal women and had fewer side effects than Tamoxifen.
- Arimidex, Aromasin. Following a number of other clinical trials, today there are four drugs available to high-risk women, depending on whether they are pre-menopausal or post-menopausal. Two of those drugs are Arimidex and Aromasin, which have both been proven to be useful.
- Herceptin. About 25% of breast cancer patients are HER2 positive, a very aggressive cancer with poor outcomes. Using Herceptin, a form of targeted therapy, outcomes are improved greatly. Some women, who received the first experimental treatments in 1992, are still in remission.
- Perjeta. In December 2017, the FDA approved Perjeta, another targeted therapy to be used together with Herceptin against HER2 positive breast cancers. They are designed to block cancer cells’ ability to receive growth signals. Working together, these drugs improve survival in women with high-risk, early-stage HER2 positive breast cancer, as well as those diagnosed with HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer.
- Tecentriq, Abraxane. For patients with metastatic disease whose tumor express the PD-L1 protein, the addition of immunotherapy drug Tecentriq, an anti-PD-L1 antibody, used in combination with chemotherapy drug Abraxane improved progression-free survival. This was also the first FDA-approved regimen for breast cancer to include immunotherapy.
- Lynparza, Talzenna. Two other targeted therapies, Lynparza and Talzenna, are so-called “PARP” inhibitors. Several types of cancer are more dependent on PARP than on regular cells. These two targeted therapies are effective for patients with triple negative breast cancer, who have inherited BCRA1/2 mutation. These oral medications have been shown to be more effective and better tolerated as compared to traditional chemotherapy.
- Ibrance, Kisqali, Verzenio. Another new class of medicines — including Ibrance, Kisqali and Verzenio — are now the standard of care, along with hormone therapies, in patients with certain types of metastatic breast cancer. These targeted therapies were the first so-called CDK4/6 inhibitors approved by the FDA. The addition of CDK4/6 has been shown to increase progression-free survival compared to hormone therapy alone.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month.
“Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump. So, establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.” (Johns Hopkins Medical Center)
Get an annual mammogram, starting at age 40.
Have a question? Ask a Cancer Expert.