A number of recent studies have revealed exciting news in both the detection and treatment of breast cancer. Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer when it comes to cancer deaths among women in the U.S. As we learn more about breast cancer, we are able to develop methods of reducing the incidence of it, which can help protect scores of women from this deadly disease.
In the area of breast cancer detection, two new developments can help in the area of early detection. Breast cancer early detection can make all the difference in a patient’s outcome; when breast cancer is caught at the localized stage, the five-year survival rate is 98%. Part of early detection is knowing whether you have an increased risk for breast cancer. For this reason, a number of women are opting for genetic testing to see whether they carry the markers for increased breast cancer risk. However, at this time, direct to consumer DNA tests are, for many people, prohibitively expensive, costing between $100 and $1500. Researchers at Johns Hopkins performed a focus group to find out what women were looking for in direct to consumer tests. Results revealed that women would be willing to buy tests that ranged in price from $10 to $20, and that they would be willing to test their children for increased risk of the disease. These findings can be used to make direct to consumer genetic testing more easily available.
In other detection news, with the successful completion of the mapping of the human genome, researchers are now focusing on proteins. By studying protein microarrays, doctors feel that they will be better able to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. Until recently, this was a dauntingly time consuming process because of the need to isolate proteins. However, a new technique which does not require that the proteins be purified can speed up the process, allowing doctors to learn more quickly. Accuracy of the program is high; in a recent study where 28 antigens were identified, doctors were able to identify cancer with 80 to 100 percent accuracy.
In the area of treatment, a recent clinical trial on a cancer vaccine has had promising results. When women who had had cancer before were given the vaccine, their rate of recurrence dropped to around 10%, down from 18% without the vaccine over a period of 22 months. This represents a 43% drop in reoccurrence. Short term side effects of the vaccine were minimal, and included flu-like symptoms, redness at the injection area and bone pain. The vaccine works by teaching the body to recognize HER2, the oncoprotein that promotes tumor growth, as an invader.