Monday, December 4, 2017

Waiting for Cancer Research

After 12 years (how the heck did that happen?) of breast cancer coping, I have actually seen some cancer research go from new or in clinical trials to become standard of care. This includes length of hormonal treatment for breast cancer patients. But it does not include many, many others.

Some cancer 'breakthroughs' are still in trials, or have vanished because they didn't work. They provide us cancer people with instant elation at the possibilities it hints at, followed by deflation as we realize it is years or decades in the future.

An example of this is this news that at UVA they are working to find a way to stop triple negative breast cancer, which is aggressive and harder to treat than other types of breast cancer. Here's the elation:

"So-called “triple-negative” breast cancer is a particularly aggressive and difficult-to-treat form. It accounts for only about 10 percent of breast cancer cases, but is responsible for about 25 percent of breast cancer fatalities.

Triple-negative breast cancer earns its name because, unlike other breast cancer subtypes, its cells test negative for estrogen and progesterone receptors, as well as for a gene called HER2. Therefore, it cannot respond to therapies that inhibit cancer-growing signals that come from estrogen, progesterone and HER2. The only treatment options for triple-negative breast cancer are surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, each of which cause difficult side effects and rarely lead to remission.

Triple-negative breast cancer is also highly variable from patient to patient and even among tumor cells of a single patient, making it difficult to understand and treat. Other breast cancer subtypes are homogeneous, more predictable and treatable.

University of Virginia researchers are working to study this variability and find an end-around method to stop triple-negative breast cancer, by seeking out unknown or little-understood routes toward shutting down uncoordinated growth."

Followed by the deflation:

“We’re still early in this investigation, but it may be a step in the right direction for getting a handle on ways to target this very difficult to treat breast cancer subtype.”

So how many years do we have to wait for this 'step in the right direction' to lead to something that is routinely available?  Will my friends with triple negative still be here to benefit from it or will it be here too late for them? 

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