Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Are Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients Getting the Right Treatment?

According to a recent on line article by Melissa Weber published in www.curetoday.com as many as one in seven women with metastatic breast cancer could be receiving the wrong treatment because of a change in the cancer’s biology when it metastasizes.

“When breast cancer spreads to another part of the body, a HER2-positive cancer could become HER2-negative. Or estrogen receptor-negative cancer could switch to estrogen receptor-positive. Despite different treatment strategies for each, most oncologists rely on what they know about the primary breast tumor to fight the metastasis, says Giuseppe Curigliano, MD, PhD, co-director of the division of medical oncology at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy. But researchers now believe inhibiting one cancer growth pathway with treatment may activate signaling of a new pathway that allows it to survive and spread.”

A study presented over the summer at the annual ASCO meeting showed that in certain cases when the metastatic lesion was tested, it did not match the primary tumor. There are a few different hypotheses for why this might happen. “Experts suspect that because tumors are made up of different kinds of cancer cells, a small fraction of cells may have a different receptor status. If those cells are more resistant to cancer therapy, the resistant cells may outgrow the rest over time. At the time of recurrence or progression, the overall tumor will have subsequently appeared to have ‘switched.’”

Being aware of the potential that the biologic characteristics of the metastatic lesion might not match that of the primary lesion can have implications for treatment. The researchers quoted in the study suggest that rebiopsy should be performed after considering the safety of the procedure.

To read the full article on line on the curetoday.com website please click here.

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