In Case You Missed It – Episode 1, 4/23/20

Apr 23, 2020 | Cancer Updates, Research

There’s been a lot of news lately. So much news that if you haven’t been following every headline, every day of the week, you might have missed something.

But that’s why I’m here. As the Director of Research Programs for Susan G. Komen, I get to hear all about the coolest and newest things happening in breast cancer research. And there’s been some cool and new things happening for breast cancer patients during COVID-19.

Here’s what you might have missed:

Treatment guidelines for patients have been updated. These are guidelines developed in collaboration with national groups based on scientific evidence from clinical trials and agreement among experts. These doctors work together to agree on what’s best for patients and then guidelines are published for your local oncologist to reference. A few weeks ago, recommendations for breast cancer patients during this crisis were released, with the primary goal being to prioritize patient outcomes and keep patients and health care workers from being infected with COVID-19. See the guidelines.

Here are the main takeaways:

Breast cancer screening is temporarily on hold but if you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, or have symptoms, don’t worry – you’ll be able to get treatment and follow up. Talk to your doctor. See More.

Surgical treatment – right now, any surgery that isn’t urgent might be delayed. What might surprise you is that having a malignant tumor isn’t always considered medically urgent, even though it feels urgent to you. Delaying surgery doesn’t mean delaying treatment. Doctors are taking advantage of approaches where chemotherapy or hormone therapies are given to the patient before surgery, instead of after surgery. As it turns out, this can sometimes be even better for the patient. Years of research and clinical trials help determine what the best treatment approaches are for patients but we continue to learn more. See More.

Radiation therapy is being carefully considered for each patient depending on other types of treatment a patient may need, like hormone therapy. Experts say that radiation therapy doesn’t make you immune suppressed, but it does mean you have to go into a medical facility sometimes every day for weeks, where you may be exposed to others with the virus. See more.

Chemotherapy and hormone therapies are being designed to limit in person visits – possibly through having patients take oral pills rather than go to the clinic for IV treatment – and working to reduce the need for follow-up tests like scans, echocardiograms, etc. Doctors are also using tests such as OncotypeDx, which can predict whether a woman would benefit from chemotherapy or not. Overall, tests like these have already reduced the need for many patients to receive chemotherapy. See more.

And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug from Seattle Genetics for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. A drug called tucatinib, in combination with chemotherapy, is providing a new treatment option for patients living with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. The clinical trial results of this new drug were originally presented at the 2019 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December. See More.

The drug was specifically tested in patients with brain mets, which is one of the hardest types of mets to treat. The blood brain barrier prevents most drugs that are circulating in the blood from getting to cancer cells that are inside the brain. Equally exciting is the way this drug came to be approved. The FDA set up a framework – called Project Orbis – that allowed multiple countries to review the drug and its results collaboratively, rather than one country at a time, which takes much longer and leads to redundant work, so that this treatment could get to patients sooner.

There’s been a lot of news lately – including a lot of good news. These are the headlines that caught my attention and are making a big impact in the breast cancer community.

Hope to see you next time on ‘In Case You Missed It.