Category Archives: ASCO

ASCO 2015: No change in metastatic breast cancer survival found at one Canadian institution, 1970 – 2013

This in itself is bad news, but the investigators also noted some alarming trends in the aggressiveness of metastatic disease once it emerged in later years.

The purpose of this study, not formally presented at the 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting but published in conjunction with the meeting,  was to look at survival of metastatic breast cancer patients from 1970 through 2013 at a hospital in Montreal.  Using a tumor registry, investigators found 1079 patients who had developed metastatic disease, and divided them into 4 cohorts according to the diagnosis of the metastatic disease (cohort 1: 1970-1995 (339 patients), 2: 1996-2000 (292), 3: 2001-2005 (249) and 4: 2006 plus (199)).

The median age of diagnosis of metastatic disease increased over time, from 54 to 58 years of age, and the time until metastatic diagnosis was significantly delayed, from 4.2 years to 5.7 years after initial diagnosis.  However, overall survival did not change, from cohort 1 to cohort 4 (initial diagnosis until death). So while the appearance of metastatic disease was delayed, this did not result in increasing survival.

The investigators hypothesize that a parallel increase in the use of adjuvant hormonal therapy, such as tamoxifen, might explain the delay in the development of the metastatic disease, but that perhaps this therapy was also leading to a drug resistance, making the metastatic disease harder to control.  A disturbing trend was that the aggressiveness of the disease when it appeared increased between cohort 1 and 4: the percentage of patients with visceral disease (metastatic disease appearing in organs such as the lung and liver) when first diagnosed with metastases increased from 33% to 45% between cohort 1 and 4.

The investigators conclude ” In our institution, no increase in overall survival was noted between the initial diagnosis and death throughout cohorts 1 to 4, but the significant increase in time to progression from initial diagnosis may reflect that adjuvant therapy delays disease progression.”

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a blog entry.  I’ve been learning a lot about the trends in research and treatment directed at many other tumor types beyond breast cancer, as part of my job as an oncology news editor.  Now I’m hoping to occasionally stop by to share information and insights I’m gathering along the way that might be helpful for breast cancer advocates. I’m particularly interested in sharing developments in immunotherapy, or therapy aimed at boosting an individual’s unique defense against cancer development and spread.  When these therapies work – so far only in a subset of patients, particularly those with melanoma, lung cancer, or bladder cancer – they often work for the long haul, not just for a month or two.  These developments are causing a buzz in the oncology world, and I think offer the most promise for making meaningful differences in women’s lives, changing these dismal numbers for those who develop metastatic disease.  Several studies are currently underway to look at these therapies in breast cancer.

ASCO Annual Meeting

The 47th annual meeting of the Annual Society of Clinical Oncology is coming up next week in Chicago, June 3-7, and is expected to draw 30,000 attendees.  Results from over 4,000 cancer research studies will be released.  A bit overwheming for a cancer research advocate – how do you find the useful and meaningful results?  A start is to look at what the press office is highlighting ahead of time, though we can’t always be sure these are well done studies, and are the most important ones.  This years’ press release highlights seven studies, three of which are relevant to breast cancer patients.  The one that caught my eye was a Phase II study of Cabozantinib for patients with advanced, progressing tumors.  The researchers found the drug was helping slow some tumor growth, but a surprise finding was its impact on patients with bone metastases.  Fifty-nine of 68 patients with bone metastases (including patients with breast and prostate cancers and melanoma) experienced either partial or complete disappearance of the cancer on bone scans, often with significant pain relief and other improved cancer-related symptoms.  Independent review by radiologists confirmed that bone metastases disappeared in the majority of patients who had bone metastases when they entered the study.

I look forward to learning more at the meeting.  Most of the research abstracts are currently online and can be searched here.  Please leave a comment if you find or hear about an interesting study to be presented at ASCO.