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…


Cancer Stem Cells and How to Get Rid of Them


If you have not yet heard of cancer stem cells (CSCs), often considered to be the real culprits in cancer, it is about time you do. CSCs are stem cells found in tumors. Drugs that target them are showing promise in clinical trials. More on that later; first, let’s introduce the concept of stem cells:

All normal tissues in our bodies develop from a small number of very special cells known as stem cells. Stem cells can divide a seemingly unlimited number of times. Continue reading…


The CAR T-Cell Treatment: Will It Work for Solid Tumors?


Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is a new, immune system-based cancer treatment that has garnered recent media attention. In a clinical trial, CAR T-cell treatment left no signs of tumors in 70% to 90% of children and adults with the aggressive blood cancer acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). ALL is almost always fatal, and the results observed with CAR T-cell treatment are nothing short of spectacular. Continue reading…


ASCO Highlight: Another Treatment Option for ER-Positive Breast Cancer


Earlier this year, a new treatment option was added to the arsenal for ER-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the combination of letrozole (Femara) and palbociclib (Ibrance). Continue reading…


Is There a Future for Immunotherapy in Breast Cancer?


Lately, immunotherapy—treatment that helps the body’s own immune system fight cancer—has made frequent appearances in news headlines. Indeed, researchers have reported remarkable clinical trial results for a new class of drugs known as ‘immune checkpoint blockade drugs‘ in the treatment of metastatic melanoma, lung, and kidney cancers. Approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the drugs Keytruda and Opdivo for melanoma and lung cancer have quickly followed. However, it may be that immunotherapies won’t work for all cancers, but only for those considered to be ‘immunogenic’; that is, cancers that trigger activation of the immune system. Researchers are studying different types of breast cancer to determine whether they are immunogenic, and what that might mean for their prognosis and treatments. Continue reading…


Lumpectomy Versus Mastectomy for Early-Stage Breast Cancer


Every woman diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer faces a decision about what type of surgery to have. Together with her doctors, she will have to choose between breast-conserving surgery (BCS), also called lumpectomy, and mastectomy. BCS preserves the breast, removing the tumor and a rim of surrounding tissue, whereas mastectomy removes the entire breast. Patients with early-stage disease (with the main tumor less than 4 cm across and 3 or fewer lymph nodes positive for cancer) are usually eligible for either BCS or mastectomy. More importantly, lumpectomy followed by radiation is just as effective as mastectomy. One would think most women would choose BCS as a less invasive (and breast-conserving!) procedure, but the numbers tell a different story. Continue reading…


Super Patient: Guido Tracks Side Effects from His Chemotherapy as a Young Adult


Sixteen years ago, Guido’s right leg hurt, but none of his doctors could figure out why. “I knew something was wrong, but nobody knew the reason. The worst thing was I didn’t know what to do about it,” says Guido, who was a college student in Austria at the time.

Tests didn’t show anything out of the ordinary, so he just had to live with the pain. But then, after nearly a year, it got so bad he was hospitalized—and this time X-rays revealed something growing around his thigh bone (femur). Genetic testing identified the growth as Ewing sarcoma, a rare cancer that usually affects children and adolescents. “It’s very uncommon in people in their 20s,” Guido says. “It’s not the first thing physicians think of.” Continue reading…


The Role of Pertuzumab in Treating HER2+ Breast Cancer


Pertuzumab (Perjeta) is a relatively new drug that targets HER2, a protein found at higher-than-normal levels in about 15% to 20% of all breast cancers. Too much HER2 leads to tumor growth. Currently, all newly diagnosed breast cancer patients have their tumors’ HER2 levels tested. Knowing whether a patient’s HER2 levels are abnormally high (HER2-positive) or normal (HER2-negative) is a major factor in choosing a treatment, thanks to the availability of trastuzumab (Herceptin) and, now, other HER2-targeted drugs such as Perjeta, T-DM1 (Kadcyla), and lapatinib (Tykerb). These drugs are all used to treat HER2-positive patients. Continue reading…