New Advances at ASCO 2005 Annual Meeting
New Advances in Breast Cancer Treatment Fueled by BCRF Support!
At the 2005 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, three important new advances in breast cancer treatment recommendations that were presented were made possible by research funds from The Breast Cancer Research Foundation over several years. BCRF's multi-year support of these studies validates the organization's claim that its Medical Advisory Board identifies the very best new ideas and provides financial support at the earliest stages, bringing the findings to the forefront to advance breast health.
Two of the announcements represent advances in targeted therapies-drugs that attack tumors directly, often without the side effects of normal chemotherapy. The third represents a lifestyle recommendation that is shown to decrease the chances of cancer recurrence.
Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL: Edith Perez, MD
"No other lay/advocacy organization can make the claim for such productive involvement in cutting-edge research." Larry Norton, MD, Director, Breast Cancer Programs, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
A large, multi-center study over five years led by Mayo Clinic medical oncologist Edith Perez, MD, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and conducted by the North Central Cancer Treatment Group (NCCTG) gave important new data about the effectiveness and safety of a breast cancer treatment combining chemotherapy and a drug called trastuzumab (Herceptin). The NCCTG trial offers new data comparing whether Herceptin is more effective in preventing recurrence when given during (concurrently) or after (sequentially) chemotherapy. These findings will help oncologists determine how to optimize Herceptin's protective effect in the course of treating patients with HER-2 positive breast cancer, an aggressive type of early-stage, operable breast cancer found in 25 to 30 percent of breast cancers. Preliminary data show that sequential treatment is good, but Herceptin given concurrently with chemotherapy yielded important trends for better results.
Data from this trial and from another large NCI-sponsored trial of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP), in collaboration with other research groups throughout the United States, showed that women who received Herceptin in combination with chemotherapy had a 52 percent decrease in risk for breast cancer recurrence and a 33 percent decrease in risk of death when compared with women who received the same chemotherapy alone. "This is a major advance for many thousands of women with breast cancer," said National Cancer Institute Director Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD. "These results are one more example that we are at a major turning point in the use of targeted therapies to eliminate suffering and death from cancer." BCRF has supported Dr. Perez's research since 1999 for her participation in this trial, which began enrolling patients in early 2000.
Indiana University Medical Center: George W. Sledge, MD and Kathy D. Miller, MD
Children's Hospital, Boston: Judah Folkman, MD
Another breast cancer study investigated the use of bevacizumab (Avastin) in combination with paclitaxel (Taxol) chemotherapy in patients who had not yet received treatment for their breast cancer which had spread to other parts of the body. Interim results of this large clinical trial, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and supported by BCRF, showed that Avastin in combination with Taxol is effective in slowing the progress of untreated recurrent or metastasized breast tumors. Avastin is a monoclonal antibody that targets tumors through an anti-angiogenic effect, by starving them of the blood they need to grow.
"This study is the first to find a benefit of anti-angiogenic therapy in patients with breast cancer and represents a major advance in the treatment of patients with metastatic disease," noted study chair Dr. Kathy D. Miller of Indiana University Medical Center. BCRF has funded the work of Dr. Miller since 2002 and the anti-angiogenesis research of Dr. George Sledge, professor at Indiana University Medical Center, since 1999. In addition, BCRF has supported the research of Dr. Judah Folkman of Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School since he was awarded the Foundation's Jill Rose Award for distinguished scientific achievement in 1997. Dr. Folkman was the first to pioneer the theory that tumors can be eliminated by cutting off their blood supply, the science that was the basis for the development of Avastin.
Women's Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS)
A third presentation at the ASCO meeting was based on the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS), a large-scale, NCI-funded and BCRF-supported clinical trial of over 2,400 women. WINS evaluated the effect of a low-fat diet on breast cancer recurrence and survival. Results showed that eating a low-fat diet reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence by 20 percent over five years in post-menopausal women compared with women following a standard diet. The women in the study were breast cancer survivors who had had standard treatment (lumpectomy or mastectomy following by radiation and then hormonal or chemotherapy). This was the first randomized clinical study showing that diet can impact breast or any other cancer.
BCRF grants over six years supported lead WINS researchers based at the Institute for Cancer Prevention. In a front-page story in The New York Times (May 17, 2005), Larry Norton, MD, Deputy Physician-in-Chief for Breast Cancer Programs at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Scientific Director of BCRF, said he has changed his advice to women on the basis of the WINS results. "Before this I was saying there's no reason not to eat a low-fat diet. Now I am saying there is a reason to eat a low-fat diet."