Predicting Breast Cancer

STATEWIDE — What if women could know if their breast cancer will return?

For the first time, women with triple negative breast cancer can get a scientific prediction of if the cancer will return after chemotherapy and surgery.

What is triple negative breast cancer?

Triple negative breast cancer is an especially aggressive form of breast cancer, said Indiana University School of Medicine researcher Brian Schneider, MD. He said it accounts for about 20% of all breast cancers, and it’s seen more in young women and African American women.

How can women know if the cancer may return?

Schneider, and fellow researcher Brian Radovich, PhD, conducted a clinical study to see if DNA from the tumor (ctDNA) and tumor cells in the plasma of the women’s blood would be able to help predict if the cancer would return.

“We took a blood sample just after surgery,” said Radovich.

They would then analyze the sample and look for the circulating tumor DNA. They took samples from almost 200 women.

At the time of surgery about 1-in-3 women will have all dead scar tissue, meaning they did really well with chemotherapy, and their likelihood of being cured is about 90%, said Schneider.

“For the other 2/3’s who have residual disease in the breast, the cure rate drops all the way to 50%,” said Schneider. “So, this is a group of patients with a really high risk of recurrence, and this is a group of patients we focused our research on.”

“As many patients will describe it, every pain, every headache, every potential feeling that maybe that this cancer’s coming back is a really scary moment,” said Radovich.

So, what’s the next step for women with a chance of recurrence?

Radovich and Schneider said later this year they will do another clinical trial called the Persevere Trial, to see if they can improve the outcomes for these patients who have the potential to relapse.

“We’re going to take women with triple negative breast cancer, who are positive for ctDNA after surgery,” said Radovich. “But this time we’re going to give them additional therapy that is actually designed for particular genomic abnormalities, or particular Achilles Heels in their cancers.”

They hope it will help the determine how they can therapeutically intervene, or help find new methods to help the women.

 

 

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