New Tool Predicts Better Breast Cancer Treatment
July 29, 2022
A mother, a sister, a spouse, a friend, a neighbor: we likely all know someone who has had or will have breast cancer. Breast cancer remains the second most common cancer diagnosed in women in the U.S., though men can also get the disease. Each year, approximately 264,000 women and 2,400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. Although deaths from breast cancer have decreased over time, the disease remains the second-leading cause of cancer death among women.
With treatments continually evolving, breast cancer survival rates continue to improve. New research and clinical trials have led to a more personalized and effective approach to treatment. As a result, many women with breast cancer face a difficult and often complex decision-making process when selecting the best treatment plan.
Modern Breast Cancer Treatment: Many Options
Modern breast cancer treatment is often customized based on a patient’s age, family and medical history, overall health, and cancer type and stage. Treatment typically includes a combination of surgical procedures, radiation therapy and other advanced medical therapies.
The first step in treatment for many breast cancer patients is surgery to remove the cancerous tissue from the breast while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible. Surgical options include mastectomy (surgical removal of an entire breast) and breast-sparing surgery, in which the surgeon removes only the tumor and a small amount of healthy tissue surrounding the tumor while leaving most of the breast intact.
Many women require some type of radiation therapy after surgery to ensure that all the cancer cells have been eliminated from the remaining breast tissue or chest wall. The type of radiation therapy or therapies used depend on the type/stage of the cancer.
Advanced Medical Therapies
Because of advances in oncology, breast cancer patients today have more advanced medical therapies available than ever before. If indicated, these may include:
- Chemotherapy: A variety of drug therapies use powerful medicines to kill cancer cells.
- Genomic medicine: Genetic testing of a tumor can help a doctor select a targeted medicine that will seek out and destroy cancer cells based on the cells’ unique genetic makeup.
- Hormone/endocrine therapy: Many women benefit greatly from hormonal treatments to block or reduce the hormone estrogen to prevent growth of new breast cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapies alert the body’s own immune system to the presence of cancer cells so it can find and destroy them.
Predict: A New Tool for Women With Early-Stage Breast Cancer
Until recently, doctors tended use their best judgment in deciding on the best course of treatment for a patient. Today’s informed breast cancer patients are often actively involved in the treatment decision-making, accepting, suggesting or declining treatment options based on their own priorities and values.
Researchers at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center are using a powerful new tool called Predict to help make more informed treatment decisions earlier, when it matters most. First developed in the U.K., Predict is an online tool that evaluates details about a breast cancer patient and the patient’s cancer. The tool then provides the average survival rates for different treatment combinations given to patients of a similar age and with similar cancer characteristics.
Led by UH Seidman researchers Lifen Cao, MD, PhD, and Alberto Montero, MD, MBA, CPHQ, the UH Seidman team used the tool to accurately predict 5- and 10-year survival rates in women in the U.S. with early-stage breast cancer.
Survival rate information is, of course, extremely valuable in creating the right treatment plan. For example, knowing that one certain type of chemotherapy will likely improve a patient’s chance of survival versus another type of therapy could help inform the patient’s treatment plan from the start.
Dr. Cao and Dr. Montero hope the results of their study will encourage more oncologists and surgeons in the U.S. treating women with early-stage breast cancer to use Predict to identify the right combination of treatment options for patients sooner, and with less trial and error.
The breast cancer team at UH Seidman Cancer Center provides comprehensive care throughout the patient journey, from breast cancer screening and diagnosis, to the development and implementation of advanced treatment plans, to recovery and survivorship. Our fellowship-trained cancer doctors offer the very latest in medical and surgical advancements in breast cancer care for men and women. Learn more about breast cancer services at UH Seidman Cancer Center.
Lifen Cao, MD, PhD, is Clinical Research Fellow at UH Seidman Cancer Center. Alberto Montero, MD, MBA, CPHQ, is Clinical Director of the Breast Cancer Medical Oncology Program at UH Seidman Cancer Center and a Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medic