Super Patient: Honesty and Openness Help Lori Through the Holidays


Update:  We are deeply saddened to report that Lori passed away on October 20th, 2018. It is a privilege to continue to share her story and help keep her memory alive.

When it comes to the holiday season, Lori Wallace, a mother of two sons, is accustomed to being in charge. “I’m the mom, I’m kind of the epicenter of my family,” she says. “So I make Christmas.”

But in early April of 2011, Lori woke up with pain in her breast from what she thought was a small toy left in her bed by her five-year-old. No toy was there, and the pain persisted. She soon had her diagnosis: stage IIA invasive ductal carcinoma. Continue reading…


Super Patient: Jessica Leip Makes an Impact on Metastatic Breast Cancer Research

Jessica Leip was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2013. Since then, she has become very active with the Metastatic Breast Cancer Project, an organization that collects samples and data from patients in order to accelerate research. We asked Jessica about her own cancer experiences and her involvement with the MBCProject: Continue reading…


Super ASK Patient: Strategically Selecting a Clinical Trial to Treat Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Update:  We are deeply saddened to report that Angela passed away on June 26, 2017. It is a privilege to continue to share her story and help keep her memory alive.

Angela was diagnosed with de novo stage IV triple-negative breast cancer in September 2015. Before her diagnosis, she worked as a director of research and evaluation at a national organization that supports young inventors and entrepreneurs and advances technology commercialization. She lives with her husband, son, and daughter in western Massachusetts. We asked her how she navigated enrolling in her first clinical trial, which began in May 2016. Continue reading…


New Research on Triple Negative Breast Cancer Emerges at ASCO 2016


The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting of 2016 is behind us, but oncologists, patients, and journalists are still analyzing the most interesting presentations made there. Below, we describe some of the more prominent results in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), both promising and disappointing.

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Clinical Trial Versus Standard Protocol: Why and How to Enroll in a Trial


My job at Cancer Commons is to help cancer patients better understand and make decisions about their treatment. Through our Ask Cancer Commons service, I also strive to inform patients about new drugs in trials that they can discuss with their oncologists. Sometimes, I explain the rationale behind a patient’s current or upcoming treatment, and sometimes I try to convince patients to actually get treated, rather than hope that a vegetarian diet and herbal supplements will cure their metastatic disease. Continue reading…


Putting Immune Checkpoint Blockade to the Test in Breast Cancer


About 10 months ago, we asked: Is There a Future for Immunotherapy in Breast Cancer? Now, we can answer this question with a qualified “yes.” The data show why:

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC)

TNBC has long been considered to be more amenable to immune system-based treatments than other types of breast cancer because it is more immunogenic; that is, relatively high levels of immune cells accumulate within or adjacent to TNBC tumors. These immune cells could be triggered to attack tumors if properly activated. TNBC tumors are also likely to have a higher mutational burden (number of genetic mutations). This is one of the predictors of sensitivity to a type of treatment called immune checkpoint blockade.  Drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors block the proteins PD-1 or PD-L1. In cancer, PD-L1 proteins on tumor cells bind to PD-1 proteins on immune T cells and inhibit their tumor-killing activity. Immune checkpoint drugs disable this interaction and enable activation of T cells. These drugs are actively being explored in TNBC in clinical trials.

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Super Patient: Diane Milne Gives Other Cancer Patients the Tools that Helped Her Survive


June 14, 2014 started out like any other day for Diane Milne. But then, just before the two-hour Zumba exercise class she took almost every morning, she suddenly couldn’t breathe. “I had an overwhelming sense of doom,” recalls Diane, a 68-year-old retired nurse. “I was home alone and I thought I was going to die.” Continue reading…


Super Patient: Lyndsay Sung Catches Her Breast Cancer Just In Time


In 2013, Lyndsay Sung noticed something new on the edge of her right breast. “I felt something weird—an odd thickening along the rib,” she recalls. At the time, her son was only a year old, so she thought it might have been related to breastfeeding. But then she felt it again in September 2014. Lyndsay knew she was at risk for breast cancer because her grandmother had had it, and she also knew her breasts from years of self-exams. So she went to see her family doctor. Continue reading…


To Type or to Print? Oncotype DX and Mamma/BluePrint Tests for Breast Cancer


Women diagnosed with localized breast cancer face difficult decisions with their doctors. What kind of neoadjuvant (before surgery) treatment to choose? Should chemotherapy follow surgery? Based on the subtype of breast cancer, should specific chemotherapy drugs be used? Continue reading…