Healthy Living: Breast cancer research
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Our Marcie Fraser tells us about new research that is paving the way identifying specific forms of breast cancer.
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When it comes to cancer treatment, twenty years ago chemotherapy drugs were used but, doctors didn't always know which specific drug treated which specific cancer. Many women, including Keirsa Chappell who was diagnosed with breast cancer before menopause, had very aggressive cancer. Research has proven cancer has a strong genetic link, and more recently experts have been able to map out the genetic makeup of specific forms of breast cancer.
"There are between five or six different types of breast cancer: luminal A, luminal B, basal like and then others that are dependent on hormone receptors," explained Dr. Arvind Mahatme, Breast Surgeon Oncologist.
Knowing the specific molecular or genetic makeup of cancer, helps determine which medication may work best.
"Basal like cancer seems to act more like ovarian cancer and maybe some of the treatments used for ovarian cancer would be better suited for that specific type of breast cancer," noted Dr. Mahatme.
The goal is to use drugs that will target the exact type of cancer cells and spare women any unnecessary and ineffective treatments.
"You can have different malignancy within the breast. You can have a sarcoma a lymphoma and you are not necessarily going to treat it just as a regular breast cancer," said Dr. Mahatme.
And more recent research indicates that African American women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer an advanced stage of cancer which is often deadly.
"The triple negative looks at a breast cancer in terms of it's receptor status; estrogen, progesterone and Her2 and certainly tumors that are positive for estrogen receptors are amendable to an additional course of therapy which will be endocrine and anti-hormone therapy," explained Dr. Mahatme.
Because triple-negative breast cancers do not usually respond to hormone therapy medicine, researchers continue to search for better treatments.