Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Journal Clinical Oncology, Race/Ethnic Diversity / 21.07.2015

Helmneh Sineshaw, MD, MPH Senior Epidemiologist, Health Services Researcher American Cancer Society, Inc Atlanta, GA 30303MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Helmneh Sineshaw, MD, MPH Senior Epidemiologist, Health Services Researcher American Cancer Society, Inc Atlanta, GA 30303 MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Sineshaw: Male breast cancer is a rare disease, and its incidence rate is increasing. Younger black men have a higher breast cancer incidence than their white counterparts. Although black/white disparities in treatment receipt and survival among women with breast cancer have been widely documented in the literature, there have been few similar studies in men with breast cancer. Previous studies were based on smaller sample size, older databases, or using data from elderly patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Radiology / 21.07.2015

Alison L. Chetlen, D.O. Associate Professor, Department of Radiology Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Hershey, PA 17033MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Alison L. Chetlen, D.O. Associate Professor, Department of Radiology Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Hershey, PA 17033 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Chetlen:  Breast cancer risk assessment provides a means of identifying women who are at risk for development of this disease.   Identifying individuals at high risk for breast cancer allows for genetic testing, supplemental breast cancer screening, possibly prophylactic surgery or chemoprevention in hopes of decreasing mortality from breast cancer.  Despite the advantages of cancer genetic risk assessment and testing, most individuals in the general population who would benefit from such services currently do not receive them.  Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Chetlen:  After implementation of a specific high-risk recommendation within our standardized mammography report along with a letter written in “lay” language informing patients of their high-risk status, the number of referrals to our high-risk clinic increased only modestly.   Despite these specific recommendations to both physicians and patients, over 85% of high risk patients did not consult a high-risk provider regarding their elevated lifetime risk of breast cancer. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer / 20.07.2015

Niels de Jonge, Ph.D Head of the Innovative Electron Microscopy group German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg University of FreiburgMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Niels de Jonge, Ph.D Head of the Innovative Electron Microscopy group German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg University of Freiburg Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: HER2 membrane proteins play a special role in certain types of breast cancer: amplified levels of HER2 drive unrestricted cell growth. HER2-tailored antibody-based therapeutics aim to prevent cancer cell growth. However, two-thirds of HER2 positive breast cancer patients develop resistance against HER2-targeting drugs. The reason for this is not yet understood. We now found out, that HER2 dimers appeared to be absent from a small sub-population of resting SKBR3 breast cancer cells. This small subpopulation may have self-renewing properties that are resistant to HER2-antibody therapy and thus able to seed new tumor growth. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Cancer Research, Nutrition / 16.07.2015

Dr. Vincent L. Cryns MD Chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Department of Medicine University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Madison, WisconsinMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Vincent L. Cryns MD Chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Department of Medicine University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Madison, Wisconsin Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Cryns: It’s been known for quite some time that many tumors are highly vulnerable to deficiencies in certain amino acids such as methionine, causing tumor cells to stop growing or die. What’s been missing is a molecular explanation for these effects that would allow us incorporate this approach into a rationally designed clinical trial. In our work, we have demonstrated that “starving” triple-negative breast cancer cells of methionine uncovers a “fatal flaw” by increasing the expression of a cell death receptor (TRAIL-R2) that we can activate with a therapeutic antibody to efficiently kill the tumor cells. What’s especially exciting is that we can use a specific diet to metabolically prime cancer cells to respond to a targeted cancer therapy. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Endocrinology, Lancet, Menopause / 08.07.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Jürg Bernhard Ph.D. International Breast Cancer Study Group Coordinating Center and Bern University Hospital, Inselspital, Bern, Switzerland Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In the combined analysis of the SOFT and TEXT trials, the aromatase inhibitor exemestane was more effective than tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer recurrence in young women (premenopausal) who also receive ovarian function suppression (OFS) as adjuvant (post-surgery) treatment for hormone-sensitive early breast cancer, providing a new treatment option for these women. These trials were conducted by the International Breast Cancer Study Group (IBCSG) and involved more than 4700 patients of over 500 centers in 27 countries. Now we present patient-reported quality of life outcomes from these trials. In the TEXT and SOFT trials, patients assigned exemestane+OFS reported more detrimental effects of bone or joint pain, vaginal dryness, greater loss of sexual interest and difficulties becoming aroused, while patients assigned tamoxifen+OFS were more affected by hot flushes and sweats. Global quality of life domains (mood, ability to cope and physical well-being) were similar between the randomized treatment groups. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Radiation Therapy, UCLA / 01.07.2015

Dr. Mitchell Kamrava MD Department of Radiation Oncology University of California Los Angeles Los Angeles, CAMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Mitchell Kamrava MD Department of Radiation Oncology University of California Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Kamrava: Breast conservation (lumpectomy followed by radiation) is known, based on multiple randomized trials with over 20 years of follow-up, to provided equivalent outcomes as mastectomy.  The radiation component of breast conservation has standardly been delivered to the whole breast.  Studies show that the majority of breast recurrences occur near the lumpectomy cavity causing some to ask whether it is necessary to treat the whole breast in order to reduce the risk of a recurrence. Partial breast radiation delivers treatment just to the lumpectomy cavity with a small margin of 1-2 cm.  It’s delivered in a shorter time of 1 week compared with about 6 weeks for standard whole breast radiation and 3-4 weeks for hypofractionated whole breast radiation. The original method developed to deliver partial breast radiation is interstitial tube and button brachytherapy.  This uses multiple small little tubes that are placed through the lumpectomy cavity to encompass the area at risk.  One end of these tubes can be connected to a high dose rate brachytherapy machine that allows a motorized cable with a very small radiation source welded to the end of it to be temporarily pushed in and out of each of the tubes so that the patient can be treated from “inside out”.  This helps concentrate the radiation to the area of the lumpectomy cavity while limiting exposure to normal tissues.  This treatment is most commonly delivered as an out-patient two times per day for a total of 10 treatments. The main finding from our paper is that in reviewing the outcomes on over 1,000 women treated with this technique with an average follow-up of 6.9 years that the 10 year actuarial local recurrence rate was 7.6% and in women with more than 5 years of follow-up physician reported cosmetic outcomes were excellent/good in 84% of cases. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Breast Cancer / 21.06.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Kristian Pietras, Ph.D. Göran & Birgitta Grosskopf Professor of Molecular Medicine Strategic Director of Cancer Research Lund University Dept of Laboratory Medicine Lund Div of Translational Cancer Research Lund, Sweden Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Pietras: Breast cancer is the largest malignant disease among women with 1.7 million new cases worldwide each year (25% of all new cancer cases for women). The prognosis for breast cancer patients is relatively good when the disease is detected at early stages (close to 90% of patients are still alive 5 years after diagnosis). Nevertheless, metastatic disease is the cause of 90% of all cancer-related deaths. Thus, learning more about the metastatic process and finding new cures for widespread disease is justifiably at the center of clinical attention. The current study is part of our ongoing efforts to map support functions performed by the various cell types comprising the tumor stroma with the premise that decisive treatment benefit can only be achieved by targeting multiple, but distinct, cell types and pathways that collectively sustain the growth of tumors. The development of a rich vascular supply  is recognized as a key hallmark of a growing tumor necessary for the development into a clinically relevant disease. Our focus is the role of the tumor vasculature in preventing or promoting metastatic dissemination from the primary tumor. For a metastasis to form, a cancer cell must, 1) detach from its neighboring cells in the mother tumor, 2) traverse the vascular wall to escape into the blood stream, 3) exit the vasculature to enter the metastatic site, and 4) colonize the metastatic site. Recent evidence points to that the transmigration into and out of the vasculature is a regulated process of previously unrecognized importance for the metastatic process. Importantly, the fact that the process of escape into/from the vasculature is regulated also implies that it is possible to use drugs to block this process. In the present study, we have combined functional studies in advanced models of cancer and computational biology approaches to investigate the specific contribution to the metastatic process of a molecular signaling pathway emanating from the ALK1 protein expressed by endothelial cells in the vasculature. Using information from 2 different patient cohorts including a total of  nearly 2000 breast tumors, we found that patients specifically having high levels of ALK1 in the vasculature of their tumor were much more likely to develop metastatic/recurrent disease. Accordingly, therapeutic administration of a drug (dalantercept) blocking the action of ALK1 prevented metastatic dissemination in multiple mouse models of breast cancer to a large degree. In addition, combination therapy of dalantercept and a commonly used chemotherapeutic drug (docetaxel) was exceedingly effective in preventing spread of the primary tumor to the lungs. Our results suggest that the molecular features of the tumor vasculature are important to consider as potential determinants of breast cancer dissemination and that metastatic spread can be delayed by targeting the tumor vasculature. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, JAMA, Race/Ethnic Diversity, Surgical Research, University Texas / 21.06.2015

Isabelle Bedrosian, M.D., F.A.C.S. Associate Professor, Department of Surgical Oncology, Division of Surgery, Medical Director, Nellie B. Connelly Breast Center The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TXMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Isabelle Bedrosian, M.D., F.A.C.S. Associate Professor, Department of Surgical Oncology, Division of Surgery, Medical Director, Nellie B. Connelly Breast Center The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Bedrosian: There have been a number of reports on the rates of Breast Conserving Therapy (BCT) and mastectomy among women with early stage breast cancer. These reports have been discordant, with some suggesting that index mastectomy rates have increased and others suggestion Breast Conserving Therapy rates have actually increased. We hypothesized that these differences in reporting may be due to data source (ie tertiary referral centers vs population based studies) and turned to the NCDB, which captures 70% of cancer cases in the US and as such provides us with the most comprehensive overview on patient treatment patterns. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Duke, Genetic Research, JAMA / 11.06.2015

Michaela Dinan, Ph.D. Duke Clinical Research Institute and Duke Cancer Institute Department of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine Durham, North CarolinaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Michaela Dinan, Ph.D. Duke Clinical Research Institute and Duke Cancer Institute Department of Medicine Duke University School of Medicine Durham, North Carolina Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: I think it will be critical to further explore the implications of Oncotype DX breast cancer assay (ODX testing) in women with breast cancer.  The ODX test helps predict which cancers will be more aggressive as well as guide recommendations as to which patients would most likely benefit from chemotherapy. I think we should look to see what impact this test is really having on the use of chemotherapy and its associated costs and outcomes for real-world breast cancer patients. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Cancer Research, Nutrition / 05.06.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Ying Wang, PHD | Senior Epidemiologist American Cancer Society, Inc. Atlanta, Georgia Dr. Wang: Several epidemiologic studies and a recent large pooled analysis suggest that higher blood levels of carotenoids, a group of lipid-soluble pigments that are rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, are associated with lower breast cancer risk. What remains unclear is whether or not the effect of carotenoids on breast cancer differ by estrogen receptor status, tumor stage, BMI, and smoking status. We examined plasma carotenoids and breast cancer risk overall, and by aforementioned tumor and participant characteristics in a cohort of 992 postmenopausal women. We found that higher pre-diagnosis plasma α-carotene, but not other subtypes or total carotenoids, was significantly associated with lower invasive breast cancer risk. The inverse association of α-carotene with breast cancer risk seems stronger for estrogen receptor positive tumors than for estrogen receptor negative tumors. There is a suggestive inverse association of total plasma carotenoid levels and breast cancer among ever smokers but not among never smokers. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, JAMA, Leukemia / 03.06.2015

Efrat Amitay, PhD, MPH School of Public Health University of Haifa Mount Carmel, Haifa, IsraelMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Efrat Amitay, PhD, MPH School of Public Health University of Haifa Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Amitay: Although childhood cancer is still rare, we are seeing an increase of around 0.9% annually in the incidence rate in the western world. In spite of advancements in treatment technologies, childhood cancer is a leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the western world – accounting for about 12.3% of all deaths among children age 1-14 years in the US. Childhood cancer is also emerging as a major cause of death in other parts of the world where death rates from communicable diseases are declining. Leukemia is the most common type of childhood cancer and accounts for about 30% of all childhood and adolescent cancers. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Amitay: The meta-analysis of all 18 studies indicated that compared with no or shorter duration of breastfeeding, breastfeeding for 6 months or longer was associated with a 19% lower risk for childhood leukemia (OR=0.81, 95% CI, 0.73-0.89). A separate analysis of 15 of those studies indicated that ever being breastfed compared with never being breastfed was associated with an 11% lower risk for childhood leukemia (OR=0.89, 95% CI, 0.84-0.94). All meta-analyses of other sub groups of studies have shown similar associations, indicating that 14%-19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for 6 months or more. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Breast Cancer / 03.06.2015

Daniel F. Hayes, M.D. Stuart B. Padnos Professor of Breast Cancer Research University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center Ann Arbor MIMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Daniel F. Hayes, M.D. Stuart B. Padnos Professor of Breast Cancer Research University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center Ann Arbor MI Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Hayes: We have developed a circulating tumor cell endocrine therapy index that we hypothesize will identify patients with estrogen receptor positive metastatic breast cancer but who will not benefit from endocrine (anti-estrogen) therapy. We can now semi-quantifiably measure er as well as bcl2, her2, and ki67 in a highly accurate and reproducible fashion.  We are now conducting a multi-institutional prospective trial in North America (the Circulating Tumor Cell-Endocrine Therapy COMETI study) to determine if our hypothesis is correct. (more…)
ASCO, Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Cancer Research, NEJM, Surgical Research, Yale / 31.05.2015

Anees B. Chagpar, MD, MSc, MPH, MA, MBA, FRCS(C), FACSAssociate Professor, Department of Surgery Director, The Breast Center -- Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven Assistant Director -- Global Oncology, Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center Program Director, Yale Interdisciplinary Breast Fellowship Yale University School of Medicine Breast Centerm New Haven, CT 06510MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Anees B. Chagpar, MD, MSc, MPH, MA, MBA, FRCS(C), FACS, Associate Professor, Department of Surgery Director, The Breast Center -- Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, Assistant Director -- Global Oncology, Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center Program Director, Yale Interdisciplinary Breast Fellowship Yale University School of Medicine Breast Centerm New Haven, CT, Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Every year in the US, nearly 300,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer -- the majority of these will have early stage breast cancer, and will opt for breast conserving surgery to remove their disease.  The goal of this operation is to remove the cancer with a rim of normal tissue all the way around it (i.e., a margin), but sadly, 20-40% of women will have cancer cells at the edge of the tissue that is removed, often mandating a return trip to the operating room to remove more tissue to ensure that no further disease is left behind.  No one likes to go back to the operating room -- so we asked the question, "How can we do better?".  Surgeons have debated various means of obtaining clear margins.  Some have advocated taking routine cavity shave margins -- a little bit more tissue all the way around the cavity after the tumor is removed at the first operation.  Others have argued that this may not be necessary; that one could use intraoperative imaging of the specimen and gross evaluation to define where more tissue may need to be removed (if at all) -- i.e., selective margins.  We conducted a randomized controlled trial to answer this question.  We told surgeons to do their best operation, using intraoperative imaging and gross evaluation, and removing selective margins as they saw fit.  After they were happy with the procedure they had performed and were ready to close, we opened a randomization envelope intraoperatively, and surgeons were either instructed to close as they normally would ("NO SHAVE"), or take a bit more tissue all the way around the cavity ("SHAVE"). Patients in both groups were evenly matched in terms of baseline characteristics.  The key finding was that patients who were randomized to the "SHAVE" group half as likely to have positive final margins and require a re-operation than patients in the "NO SHAVE" group.  On their postoperative visit, we asked patients, before they knew which group they had been randomized to, what they thought of their cosmetic results.  While the volume of tissue excised in the "SHAVE" group was higher than in the "NO SHAVE" group, the distribution of patient-perceived cosmetic outcomes were identical in both groups.  Complication rate was also no different between the two groups.  We will be following patients for five years for long-term cosmetic and recurrence outcomes. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, General Medicine / 31.05.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Bruno M. Heleno MD The Research Unit for General Practice and Section of General Practice Department of Public Health University of Copenhagen Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Heleno: False positive mammography causes psychological distress. Several observational studies have shown this, and their results have been summarized in systematic reviews. However, it was unclear whether women requiring invasive tests (needle or surgical biopsy) were more distressed than women only requiring non-invasive procedures (clinical examination or imaging). Contrary to previous research, we found that these two groups of women were equally distressed during the 36 months of follow-up in our cohort. The best estimate for the difference for 12 related measures of distress was always close to zero. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer / 26.05.2015

Professor Ramsey Cutress Associate Professor in Breast Surgery University of SouthamptonMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Professor Ramsey Cutress Associate Professor in Breast Surgery University of Southampton Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The main finding is that in young women with breast cancer, a breast cancer family history of breast cancer did not affect recurrence rates. This work forms part of the Prospective Outcomes in Sporadic versus Hereditary breast cancer (POSH) study, which included 2850 women under age 41 years who were diagnosed with breast cancer and treated in the UK. The study, led by principal investigator Professor Diana Eccles, recorded patients’ personal characteristics, tumour characteristics, treatment, and family history of breast/ovarian cancer over a 15-year period. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Breast Cancer / 19.05.2015

Lao Saal, M.D. Ph.D.MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Lao Saal, M.D. Ph.D. Head, Translational Oncogenomics Unit Assistant Professor Department of Oncology and Pathology Lund University Cancer Center Lund, Sweden Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Saal: About a quarter of women diagnosed with primary (non-metastatic) breast cancer will unfortunately progress and later be found to have metastatic spread, which can occur many years to even a decade or more after the first diagnosis. At this point, the prognosis after identification of metastatic breast cancer is very poor. Metastatic disease is typically diagnosed only after it has grown large enough to cause symptoms, be noticed on exam, or be detectable by imaging. It is thought that early detection of metastasis has the potential to lead to better outcomes because therapies could be modified when the metastasis is still very small. Moreover, a very sensitive and specific test that could identify patients who appear "cancer-free" could also be useful. Essentially all cancers have unstable genomes, where chromosomes physically break and are reassembled incorrectly and thus the normal sequence is altered. Importantly, DNA material from cancer cells can be found in the blood circulation and therefore this circulating tumor DNA has the potential to be a cancer biomarker. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Saal: Eleonor Olsson, a PhD student in my lab who defends her thesis next week, and Christof Winter, a postdoc bioinformatician in my group, were the first authors of the paper. In our study we tested whether periodic monitoring of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in blood plasma samples, taken before surgery for primary breast cancer and at multiple timepoints after surgery, could identify the metastastic spread, and whether the quantity of ctDNA was associated to patient outcome. We analyzed a retrospective cohort of 20 patients, who had enrolled many years ago in a separate epidemiological study run by Helena Jernström in our department, wherein the appropriate blood plasma samples had been biobanked and tumor tissue was available and we had long-term clinical follow-up information. As far as we are aware, our study is the first to show the potential for serial ctDNA monitoring in the context of primary breast cancer. We found that our ctDNA blood tests could discriminate patients with eventual metastasis from those with long‐term disease‐free survival with 93% sensitivity and 100% specificity. Furthermore, ctDNA‐based detection of metastatic disease preceded clinical detection for 86% of patients by an average 11 months and in some cases by 3 years. In all of the patients who had long-term disease-free survival, we did not detect any ctDNA in any timepoints after surgery. Lastly, the measured quantity of ctDNA was a significant predictor of outcome: for each doubling of the ctDNA level, the odds ratio for metastasis was 2.1 and the odds ratio for death was 1.3. An interesting anecdote -- one patient we studied had bilateral breast cancer and we found that it was the right-side tumor (which actually had more favorable clinical characteristics) that gave rise to the metastasis and not the left-side tumor. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Chemotherapy, Journal Clinical Oncology, Stanford / 13.05.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Melinda L. Telli, M.D. Assistant Professor of Medicine Stanford University Division of Medical Oncology Stanford, CAMelinda L. Telli, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Stanford University
Division of Medical Oncology

Stanford, CA 94305-5826
Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: A major goal of this study was to explore a DNA damaging chemotherapy regimen in patients with newly diagnosed early-stage triple-negative or BRCA1/2 mutation-associated breast cancer. This was based on the hypothesis that these types of tumors are more responsive to DNA damaging therapeutics. A second major goal was to identify predictors of response to this platinum-based therapy among patients with sporadic triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Overall, this study demonstrated that the non-anthracycline and non-taxane neoadjuvant regimen of gemcitabine, carboplatin and iniparib resulted in a 36% pathologic complete response rate (pCR). This compares favorably to pCR rates commonly observed with anthracycline and taxane-based regimens in this group of patients. The response rate was higher among triple-negative breast cancer patients with a germline BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation (56%). Given the hypothesis of underlying DNA repair defects in sporadic triple-negative breast cancer, we also evaluated a novel measure of genomic instability to detect the accumulation of changes in the genomic landscape of a tumor attributable to defective homologous recombination DNA repair. Homologous recombination deficiency was assessed by loss of heterozygosity (HRD-LOH) in pretreatment core breast biopsies. Very importantly, we found that the HRD-LOH assay was able to identify patients with sporadic TNBC lacking a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, but with an elevated HRD-LOH score, who achieved a favorable pathologic response. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, JNCI, Surgical Research / 11.05.2015

Bernadette A.M. Heemskerk-Gerritsen, Ph.D.		 Department of Medical Oncology Erasmus MC Cancer Institute Roterdam, the NetherlandsMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Bernadette A.M. Heemskerk-Gerritsen, Ph.D. Department of Medical Oncology Erasmus MC Cancer Institute Roterdam, the Netherlands Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Heemskerk-Gerritsen: Women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation have substantially higher risks of developing both primary and contralateral breast cancer (BC) and ovarian cancer than women from the general population. Options to reduce these increased cancer risks include risk-reducing mastectomy (RRM) and/or risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy (RRSO). The latter intervention obviously reduces the risk of developing ovarian cancer, but has been reported also to reduce the risk of developing a subsequent breast cancer with approximately 50%. However, studies on the efficacy of risk-reducing surgery in BRCA1/2 mutation carriers are confined to observational studies, thus challenging several methodological issues. Consequently, previous studies on breast cancer risk-reduction after RRSO may have been influenced by bias associated with selection of study subjects, bias associated with start of follow-up, or by confounding, and breast cancer risk-reduction may have been overestimated. In the current study, we revisited the association between risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy and breast cancer risk in BRCA1/2 mutation carriers, focusing on the impact of different analytical methods and potential types of bias. First, we replicated the analyses of four previously performed studies, to examine if our Dutch cohort was comparable with the cohorts used in the previous studies. We replicated the approximately 50% breast cancer risk reduction after RRSO in the Dutch cohort. Second, we estimated the effect of RRSO on breast cancer risk in the Dutch cohort using a revised analytical approach for observational studies in BRCA1/2 mutation carriers in order to minimize bias as much as possible. Using this method of analysis, we found no evidence of first BC risk-reduction after RRSO in BRCA1/2 mutation carriers. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Case Western, Genetic Research / 07.05.2015

Ahmad M. Khalil, PhD Assistant professor, Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences Case Western Reserve University School of MedicineMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Ahmad M. Khalil, PhD Assistant professor, Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Khalil: This study aimed to identify other genes that work synergistically with the oncogene HER2 in HER2positive (HER+) breast cancer. The gene HER2 is amplified in those patients, which results in excess activities that promote uncontrolled cell growth. There are drugs that target HER2 and diminish its activity. However, these drugs can work initially, but patients relapse; or sometimes, the drugs don't work at all in some patients. Thus, by identifying other genes that work synergistically with the HER2 gene, we now have more genes to target by various drugs or compounds to destroy the tumor. The challenge was how to identify the key genes that work synergistically with HER2, especially in human subjects. To that end, we used clinical samples from a clinical trial of a drug that is known to inhibit HER2 activity to identify those genes. To further refine our list, we used cell culture models of the disease to also inhibit HER2. By combining those data sets, we identified 44 protein-coding genes. Next, we wanted to make sure that those genes stand a third independent filter. For that part, we interrogated those 44 genes in HER2+ tumors vs matched normal tissues from The Cancer Genome Atlas database — a collection of hundreds of tumors and normal tissues. Of the 44 genes, 35 genes passed this third filter. By examining the known functions of those genes, we can deduce that those genes work cooperatively with HER2 to promote carcinogenesis. There are currently known drugs that target some of those genes. We will use these drugs in combination with a drug that target HER2 to determine if the combination works better at destroying the tumor entirely. Lastly, we found that a special type of genes that we previously discovered, called lincRNAs, could also affect the oncogenic activity of HER2. These lincRNAs can also be targeted with HER2 to eliminate the tumor. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, NIH, Ovarian Cancer / 03.05.2015

Dr. Victoria L. Chiou, MD Medical Oncology Fellow Women’s Malignancies Branch National Cancer InstituteMedicalResearch.com interview with Dr. Victoria L. Chiou, MD Medical Oncology Fellow Women’s Malignancies Branch National Cancer Institute MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Chiou: We studied the effects of different treatments in ovarian and breast cancer cell lines with and without BRCA1 mutation in the laboratory. Our discovery that olaparib pretreatment before carboplatin led to decreased carboplatin-induced DNA damage in tumor cells carrying BRCA1 mutation led us to a novel clinical question. We wanted to further understand whether there was an optimal way to deliver a combination of the new tablet formulation of olaparib with carboplatin chemotherapy in women with gynecologic and breast cancers. We launched our clinical trial to test this important question. Overall, we are pleased that the drug combination of olaparib and carboplatin chemotherapy can be given safely together, with preliminary activity in women with breast and ovarian cancer associated with germline BRCA mutations. We are excited to report the findings of this study, which is the first to report preclinical and clinical data on sequence specificity for this drug combination in this patient population. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Genetic Research / 27.04.2015

Nasim Mavaddat M.B.B.S. MPhil PhD PhD  Centre for Cancer Genetic Epidemiology Department of Public Health and Primary Care University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UKMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Nasim Mavaddat M.B.B.S. MPhil PhD PhD Centre for Cancer Genetic Epidemiology Department of Public Health and Primary Care University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Mavaddat: Recent large-scale genome wide association analyses have led to the discovery of genetic variation- called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with breast cancer risk. Individually these variants confer risks that are too small to be useful for risk prediction. But when combined as a single score, called a polygenic risk score (PRS), this score may be used to stratify women according to their risk of developing breast cancer. This stratification could guide strategies for screening and prevention. Our study was a large international collaboration involving 41 research groups from many different countries and included 33,673 breast cancer patients and 33,381 controls. We found that the genetic variants act more or less independently, and that the more risk variants a woman has the higher her risk of breast cancer. When women were ranked according to their PRS, women with scores in the top 1% had a threefold increased risk of breast cancer. This translates into an absolute risk of breast cancer of 29% by age 80. By contrast, women with the lowest 1% scores had a risk of 3.5%. The PRS was effective in stratifying women with and without a family history of breast cancer, so that highest risk was for women with a family history and a high PRS. Finally, we showed that the PRS was better at predicting the risk of ER-positive breast cancer (potentially relevant to the application of risk stratification to chemoprevention for example, with tamoxifen, raloxifene or aromatase inhibitors). There has been much debate as to whether genomic profiles are useful for individual risk prediction, especially in the context of the preventative strategies available at the present time. The estimates provided in this study will help inform these debates. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, UCSD / 21.04.2015

Presented by Dr. Maura N. Dickler MD Associate member of the Breast Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New YorMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Presented by Dr. Maura N. Dickler MD Associate member of the Breast Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York Medical Research: What is the background for this study? This year, breast cancer will claim the lives of nearly 40,000 women in the United States, and up to half of these women will have a disease that is driven by the estrogen receptor.
  • Although medicines have been approved for the treatment of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer for decades, more treatment options are needed.
  • Resistance to endocrine therapies causes morbidity and mortality for women with metastatic estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer as many patients relapse or develop resistance to available hormonal agents via estrogen-dependent and estrogen-independent mechanisms.
  • Dual-acting investigational Selective Estrogen Receptor Degrader (SERDs) could potentially lead to a new treatment option for people with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer and may help overcome resistance to current anti-hormonal medicines.
  • GDC-0810 is a dual-acting investigational next-generation oral SERD that works in a number of ways to prevent estrogen fueling tumor growth. It is not only designed to target the estrogen receptor (ER) as an antagonist, but also to cause degradation of the ER protein. In preclinical studies, GDC-0810 was shown to induce tumor regressions in both tamoxifen sensitive and tamoxifen resistant tumor models in vivo.
Medical Research: What are the main findings?
  • Clinical data from the dose-escalation portion of a Phase I/IIa study evaluating GDC-0810 appears to have an acceptable safety profile with encouraging anti-tumor activity in postmenopausal women with advanced breast cancer positive for the estrogen receptor (ER), all of whom were previously treated with standard endocrine therapy.
  • Promising anti-tumor activity was observed in 38% of patients on study for six months or longer. At all doses tested, there was robust engagement of the estrogen receptor by GDC-0810 as demonstrated by fluoroestradiol (FES) PET scans.  Overall, the most common adverse events of any grade related to GDC-0810 were diarrhea, nausea and fatigue.
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Author Interviews, Breast Cancer / 20.04.2015

Steven Jay Isakoff, MD, PhDHematology/Oncology Department of Medicine Massachusetts General HospitalMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Steven Jay Isakoff, MD, PhD Hematology/Oncology Department of Medicine Massachusetts General Hospital Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Isakoff: Metastatic triple negative breast cancer remains a challenging clinical problem with no specific therapies targeted validated for this population.  From a number of preclinical studies and because of a link between BRCA1 associated breast cancer and triple negative breast cancer, platinum chemotherapy has emerged as a potential chemotherapy with activity in triple negative breast cancer.  However, it is not yet clear how to predict which triple negative breast cancer patients are more likely to respond to platinum chemotherapy.  We set out to answer several questions.
  • First, what is the response rate to platinum chemotherapy in the first or second line for metastatic triple negative breast cancer?
  • Second, can we identify biomarkers to predict response to platinum agents?  The results of our study showed that among 86 patients treated with platinum chemotherapy (either cisplatin or carboplatin), the response rate was about 25%.  We identified 11 BRCA mutation carriers in our population and the response rate among carriers was about 55% compared to about 20% in the non-carriers.  In addition, we found that a new assay called the Hologous Recombination Deficiency assay, which may identify tumors with a BRCA-like phenotype, seemed to predict which cancers were more likely to respond, whereas other biomarkers we looked at were not able to do so.
  • Another exciting finding was that 6 patients who had major responses have become long term responders with no subsequent progression, some whom for over 5 years so far.  Surprisingly, none of the long term responders are BRCA mutation carriers.
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AACR, Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Nutrition, UCSD / 20.04.2015

Catherine Marinac Doctoral Candidate UC San Diego/San Diego State University Joint-Doctoral Program in Public Health La Jolla, CA 92093MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Catherine Marinac Doctoral Candidate UC San Diego/San Diego State University Joint-Doctoral Program in Public Health La Jolla, CA 92093 MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The dietary advice for cancer prevention usually focuses on limiting consumption of red meat, alcohol, and refined grains, and increasing consumption of plant foods. However, new evidence suggests that other fundamental aspects of diet, such when and how often people eat, can also play a role in cancer risk. For example, research in mice suggests that decreasing the number of hours we eat during the day, and increasing the length of time we fast overnight can improve metabolic parameters and reduce risk of developing a number of chronic diseases including cancer. Similar to the data from animal models, we found that women who fasted for longer periods of time overnight had significantly better control over blood glucose concentrations – and these effects were independent of how much women ate. This finding is relevant to cancer research because people who have poor glucose control are significantly more likely to develop certain types of cancer. It is hypothesized that high concentrations of circulating glucose may fuel cancer growth and progression. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Cancer Research, Cognitive Issues, JNCI / 19.04.2015

Dr. Kerstin Hermelink Senior psychologist  Dept. of Gynecology and Obstetrics Ludwig Maximilian University of MunichMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Kerstin Hermelink Senior psychologist Dept. of Gynecology and Obstetrics Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Hermelink: Many breast cancer patients report problems of cognitive functioning that interfere considerably with their professional and private lives. In the last two decades, a number of studies have confirmed that subgroups of breast cancer patients show at least subtle cognitive impairment. Initially, the condition has entirely been attributed to chemotherapy effects and has therefore colloquially been named “chemobrain”. Meanwhile, however, cognitive impairment has also been found in patients who were managed without chemotherapy and, surprisingly, even in patients who had not yet received any systemic treatment at all. Several hypotheses on the causation of cognitive impairment that occurs already pretreatment have been put forward; for instance, biological effects of the cancer itself might affect cognitive functioning, or there might be shared genetic vulnerability for cancer and cognitive impairment. None of these hypotheses have been empirically confirmed; thus, pretreatment cognitive impairment is as yet unexplained. Our study was designed to investigate the effects of cancer-related post-traumatic stress on cognitive function in breast cancer patients before the start of treatment. Stress has a substantial influence on cognitive functioning, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with impairment of cognitive function. While the incidence of full diagnosis of stress disorder is low among breast cancer patients, many of these patients show symptoms of PTSD, with a peak shortly after diagnosis. We did not find an elevated risk of overall cognitive impairment in pretreatment breast cancer patients compared with matched non-cancer controls; however, the cancer patients scored worse than the controls on a small fraction of the cognitive indices that were used. Performance on these indices was indeed robustly associated with PTSD symptoms. Our results therefore indicate that pretreatment cognitive impairment in breast cancer patients may be largely caused by the stress of being diagnosed with cancer. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Genetic Research, Journal Clinical Oncology, University of Michigan / 06.04.2015

Dr. Reshma Jagsi MD, DPhil Associate Professor and Deputy Chair for Faculty and Financial Operations in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Michigan Health System Research Investigator at the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine University of MichiganMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Reshma Jagsi MD, DPhil Associate Professor and Deputy Chair for Faculty and Financial Operations in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Michigan Health System Research Investigator at the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine University of Michigan Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Jagsi: We surveyed women diagnosed with breast cancer and found that many women were concerned about the genetic risk of developing other cancers themselves or of a loved one developing cancer.  Overall, 35 percent of the women we studied expressed a strong desire for genetic testing, but 43 percent of those did not have a relevant discussion with a health care professional. In addition, minority patients with a strong desire for testing were less likely to discuss it with a professional, even though studies show that minority patients are not at lower risk for these mutations. (more…)
Breast Cancer, Health Care Systems / 06.04.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Karla Unger-Saldaña Unit of Epidemiology Instituto Nacional de Cancerología Mexico City, Mexico. Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Unger-Saldaña: Even though Breast Cancer is most common in the developed world, most cancer deaths actually occur in developing regions. This is mainly because patients are diagnosed in advanced stages, with poor chances of survival. Most studies have shown that long times between symptom discovery and treatment start (total delay) are associated with advanced clinical stage. Like total delay, patient delay -a prolonged time between symptom discovery and the first medical consultation- has also shown to be associated with advanced clinical stage. But the impact of health system delay -the time between the first clinical consultation and the start of cancer treatment- is less clear. Studies have shown contradictory findings. For example, studies in developed countries have found the reverse association: advanced stages associated with short times between first medical consultation and treatment start. This has been attributed to the ability of doctors to quickly identify patients with advanced cancer and somehow accelerate their care. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Unger-Saldaña: In this study, done among 886 patients, we found that the majority started cancer treatment in advanced stages, with only 15% being diagnosed in stages 0 and I. Also, we found long delays for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in most cases. The median time between symptom discovery and cancer treatment start was 7 months. The longest subinterval was that between the first medical consultation and diagnosis confirmation, which had a median of 4 months. The most relevant result was that not only was patient delay associated with advanced stage, but also health system delay. For every additional month of health system delay, the probability of starting treatment in advanced stage was increased by 1%. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Chemotherapy, Lancet / 31.03.2015

Prof Xi-Chun Hu, Department of Oncology Shanghai Medical College Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, ChinaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof Xi-Chun Hu, Department of Oncology Shanghai Medical College Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, China MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Prof. Hu: Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is associated with higher rates of recurrence, shorter disease free survival, and poorer overall survival. Molecular targeting agents tried against Triple-negative breast cancer have nearly all failed. TNBC, concordant with BRCA-associated and basal-like breast cancer, has abnormal DNA repair and genome-wide instability, supporting the use of DNA-damaging agents such as platinum. However, platinum monotherapy is not very potent, combination with other agents, such as gemcitabine has a synergistic effect. The GP regimen could be an alternative or even preferential first-line doublet chemotherapy strategy for patients with mTNBC. (more…)