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  • 2012 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium – Clinical Trials

    Members of Komen’s Research, Evaluation and Scientific Teams were out in force at the recent San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, including Komen’s Scientific Grants Manager Krissa Smith, who reports on a session about the importance of clinical trials. 

    As the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium wrapped up last week, we had the opportunity to hear from the world’s leading clinicians and basic researchers on the progress of their efforts to improve current treatments for breast cancer.  This included a review of results of recent clinical trials into newly developed drugs or combinations of already approved therapies – all in an effort to move the needle toward personalized treatment for women and men facing breast cancer.

    We were pleased to see so many Komen-funded researchers and members of our scientific team presenting at this major international conference, and especially excited about what we are learning in terms of personalizing breast cancer treatment.

    The conference wrapped Friday with a general session on clinical trials targeting HER2, moderated by Komen’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr. George Sledge.

    One of the great breakthroughs in breast cancer research was the identification of the HER2 receptor found on some breast cancer cells and the later development of the drug trastuzumab that targets HER2, also known as Herceptin.  HER2 is now used as a marker that clinicians utilize to classify breast cancer subtypes and, using trastuzumab, to treat specific cancer subtypes.

    Researchers have developed a second antibody – called pertuzumab — that combined with trastuzumab is used to target HER2.  Komen Scholar Jose Baselga  presented the results of the CLEOPATRA trial that evaluated the combined treatment of trastuzumab plus pertuzumab, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study concluded that by adding pertuzumab to the treatment, patient survival was significantly improved.  Researchers also found that mutations in a gene called PI3KCA indicated a worse prognosis for breast cancer patients in this trial.  However, anti-HER2 treatment was beneficial for patients with or without the PI3KCA mutation and the results of this trial indicate that this new treatment combination would be beneficial for HER2+ breast cancer patients.

    Other clinical trials presented in this session evaluated the duration of trastuzumab treatment. Komen Scholar Alumnus Aron Goldhirsch was involved in the HERA trial presented later Friday morning that investigated if treating patients for longer than one year with trastuzumab – the current standard – affected patient survival, or if two years would be more effective. The conclusion from this trial is that there is no significant increase in overall survival for patients who received two years of treatment, even after eight years of follow-up, and confirms one year as the standard of care.

    Because there may be some cardiac side effects, a second trial (PHARE) evaluated whether trastuzumab could be given for only six months with the same benefits.  This trial indicated that patients who received six months of treatment had a similar survival compared to patients treated for a year.  While further work needs to be done, these results are encouraging because they indicate that trastuzumab treatment duration could actually be reduced.

    These reports were encouraging to us at Komen because they allow doctors and researchers to home in on ways to personalize treatments for women and men with breast cancer – a far cry from the “one size fits all” treatment approach that existed for breast cancer patients when we started our work at Komen in 1982.  Our research portfolio over 30 years has grown to more than $750 million – second only to the U.S. government.  And our focus now is on results that can be taken from the lab to the bedside, to consumers and patients, in the shortest period of time.

    Thanks to all of our supporters who have helped us fund the most respected breast cancer researchers in the world.

  • 2012 3-Day Series Wrap Up – THANK YOU!

    It’s been a few weeks, but the 2012 Susan G. Komen 3-Day™ Series closed with a bang in San Diego, California on November 18, 2012. The millions of steps taken will forever make an impact in the fight to end breast cancer. This year, more than 22,000 women and men joined the fight and raised tens of millions of dollars for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

    From the east to west coast and cities in between, thousands of people gathered to walk, support and volunteer for the Komen 3-Day. As any participant will tell you, the 3-Day is a family and community. The people who choose to raise $2,300 and more are dedicated and passionate about giving everyone the lifetime they deserve. Where else could you find a group of people more enthusiastic about sleeping in a sea of pink tents?

    Every member of the 3-Day family has an inspiring story to share. Many participate in multiple events, come out to support walkers year after year or volunteer their time to help make the 3-Day run smoothly. Among the 3-Day staples are the Pink Fireman, Peanut Butta the cuddly teddy bear and, of course, our ever handsome 60-Mile Men who bare all to raise money for the cause.

    For many, participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day is more than completing 60 miles; it’s about giving hope to those who’ve been affected by breast cancer. When First Sergeant Laurie Cherry found out her deployment for active duty meant missing her first Arizona 3-Day, she knew she couldn’t walk away from her commitment to either organization. Instead, Laurie decided to continue her training and fundraising overseas and she completed the 60 miles from abroad the same weekend of the Arizona 3-Day.

    You don’t even have to walk 60 miles to be embraced by the 3-Day family. Kris and Ken Kaukker, two route safety volunteers lovingly known as the Tutu Brothers were showered with 3-Day love when their bikes went missing at the Washington, D.C. event. Just moments after Kris updated his Facebook page with the news, 3-Day walkers, “walker stalkers” and crew from across the nation sprang into action to help the duo get back on their wheels.

    The joy, tears, miles and community built in three short days not only makes a powerful impression on our participants, but also makes a lasting impact in the fight against breast cancer. At Susan G. Komen, we’d like to give a sincere and heartfelt thank you to every walker, crew member, volunteer and supporter of this year’s 2012 Susan G. Komen 3-Day Series.

    If you want to experience the journey of a lifetime and become part of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day family, visit The3Day.org to get more information or register for the 2013 event series.

  • 2012 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium – Breast Density and Breast Cancer Risk

    Members of Komen’s Research, Evaluation and Scientific Teams were out in force at the recent San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, including Komen’s Scientific Grants Manager Anna Cabanes, who reports on a session about the importance of research into better ways to predict individual breast cancer risk for women with dense breasts.  

    A highlight of the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium was a phenomenal session on breast density moderated by the Komen Scholar Melissa Bondy that included the experts in the breast density field.

    Breast density has received a lot of attention in recent years, because it’s seen as one indicator of the potential to develop breast cancer later in life. Pre-menopausal women are more likely to have dense breasts (more tissue than fat), than post-menopausal women.

    We know that – in general — women with high breast density, as seen on a mammogram, are 4-5 times more likely to develop breast cancer than women with low breast density. What we don’t fully understand is how and why that happens, or how to accurately predict which women with dense breasts are at high risk to develop breast cancer, and which are at low risk.

    The experts in the San Antonio sessions discussed research being done to use biomarkers and genetics information to more accurately assess an individual’s risk. This is in line with the ongoing goal of breast cancer research toward individualized therapies for breast cancer patients, rather than the “one-size-fits-all” approach to breast cancer that prevailed for many years.

    New laws in several states require mammography clinics to inform women about their breast density, and the San Antonio panel agreed that women should receive that information.  But they cautioned that given what we know today, women should also be told that the ability to accurately predict an individual’s risk from dense breasts is modest at best.

    Learn more about breast density, including questions you should ask your doctor about dense breasts.

  • 2012 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

    Guest blog from Andrea Rader, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Managing Director, Communications

    One of the biggest breast cancer conferences of the year gets underway tomorrow (Dec. 4) in San Antonio, Texas. The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, hosted by the American Association of Cancer Researchers (AACR) — and strongly supported by Susan G. Komen for the Cure — brings together thousands of researchers, clinicians and advocates from around the world to report on the latest in trends in breast cancer research and treatment.

    We look forward to this every year, because it’s an opportunity to see the progress being made in research that we’ve funded (Susan G. Komen is the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research — $750 million in our 30 years), and trends in treatment and care.

    We’re also pleased to see some of the outstanding leaders in breast cancer research receiving honors for their contributions to breast cancer science and care.

    The recognition begins today — Convention Eve — when AACR presents its Outstanding Investigator Award to Kornelia Polyak, M.D., Ph.D., of Dana Farber Cancer Institute. The Outstanding Investigator Award is supported by a $10,000 grant from Komen to recognize investigators 50 or under whose work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on breast cancer. Dr. Polyak will present a 25-minute lecture, entitled Breast Tumor Evolution: Drivers and Clinical Relevance on Thursday. Dec. 6.  Read more about Dr. Polyak.

    On Wednesday, we will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of our Brinker Awards for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science and Clinical Research, with honors to an American clinician-scientist and an Israeli researcher.

    This year’s award for Clinic Research will be presented to Hyman B. Muss, M.D., Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Geriatric Oncology Program at University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill.  Dr. Muss has been leading research and clinical care for older breast cancer patients for more than 30 years.

    Yosef Yarden, Ph.D., of the Harold and Zelda Goldenberg Professor of Molecular Cell Biology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, will be honored with the Brinker Award for Basic Science. Prof. Yarden has been instrumental in advancing our understanding of the biology of growth factors and their receptors, and their role in human cancers.  His research has been crucial to establishing growth factor receptors as prime targets for cancer drugs.

    Both will present findings at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium Wednesday, Dec., 6, and honored at a reception that evening. Later this week, Dr. Muss and Prof. Yarden will share personal observations about their week in our Voices of Impact program.

    Komen scientific staff, Komen Scholars, Advocates in Science and our Scientific Advisory Board will be out in force at the Symposium, and we’ll report on novel and interesting findings from the Symposium in this space during the week.  Or follow the conversation using the conference hashtags #SABCS and #SABCS12 on Twitter!

  • Early Detection and Avoiding Overtreatment

    One of the most important issues in breast cancer treatment is whether non-invasive breast cancers found with screening mammograms should be treated in the same manner as invasive breast cancer.  At this point, we frankly don’t know which small tumors found on mammograms, called ductal carcinoma in situ (or DCIS), will progress to invasive and metastatic forms of breast cancer and which might resolve themselves without medical intervention.

    It’s a big question, and there are valid concerns about over-diagnosis and overtreatment of DCIS.  Left untreated, about 20 to 30 percent of low grade DCIS will progress to invasive breast cancer.  But we can’t tell yet which tumors will actually progress, so DCIS is treated  – with surgery and radiation – and sometimes systemic therapy because most women and their doctors aren’t willing to leave them to chance. More information on DCIS and recommended treatments.

    This potential for overtreatment has been a huge concern at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which is why we’ve invested more than $9 million into research to bring scientific certainty to this critical question.  We were very pleased this week to see progress from our research grantees at Thomas Jefferson Cancer Center in Philadelphia, working with researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern, to identify genetic patterns involved in “turning on” or “turning off” the progression of cancer. Their findings could eventually lead to a genetic test to help doctors and women decide whether aggressive treatment for DCIS is warranted (Los Angeles Times report on this study).

    While more study is certainly needed, these recent findings are exciting because they will lead to better, more personalized treatment for more than 50,000 women estimated to be diagnosed with DCIS each year. This should allow some to avoid aggressive treatment entirely, while appropriately treating women at higher risk.

    This research resulted from a Komen Career Catalyst Grant awarded in 2008 to Dr. Agnieszka Witkiewicz.  It is just part of our $30 million investment into early detection research, aimed at finding more sensitive, cost-effective and convenient screening methodologies, and more accurately determining which tumors may progress and which won’t.