According to the American Cancer Society, about 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. this year. However, advancements in treatment are improving survival rates, even for advanced stage breast cancers.
Oncologists are now using platinum compounds to treat triple negative breast cancer cases, an aggressive form of the disease that tends to occur in younger or African American populations, and in BRCA gene mutation carriers.
Platinum compounds are a form of chemotherapy that have been used to treat lung and ovarian cancers in the past, but are now showing good response rates when used in conjunction with other forms of chemotherapy to treat this form of breast cancer.
Two new targeted therapy agents, pertuzamab and T-DM1, are now being used to treat advanced stage HER2-positive breast cancer, a common form of the disease. Pertuzamab is being used in combination with chemotherapy, while T-DM1 is a new class of drugs called antibody-drug conjugates.
This class of drugs combines a targeted agent with chemotherapy to deliver the treatment directly to the malignant cells, while sparing healthy tissue.
Cone Health Cancer Center is also currently involved in a clinical study researching the effect of new drug combinations to treat endocrine receptor (ER) positive breast cancer, which accounts for about 75 percent of all breast cancer cases. This study is pairing a chemotherapy drug with an anti-estrogen agent to treat ER positive breast cancer and is showing improvement in disease-free survival.
Treatment for cancer must be individualized to each unique case, and with the ongoing advancements in treatment options for breast cancer, survival rates will continue to increase.
Dr. Kalsoom Khan is an oncology and hematology specialist at Cone Health Cancer Center, board-certified in medical oncology. She is a 1988 graduate of Fatima Jinnah Medical College. She completed a residency in Internal Medicine/Pediatrics at Albany Medical Center Hospital and a fellowship in Medical Oncology and Hematology at Yale-New Haven Hospital.