Highlights from the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2013 by Debra Patt, MD, MPH


Debra Patt, MD, MPH
Medical Oncologist, Hematologist/Texas Oncology

The San Antonio breast cancer symposium (SABCS) is always a meeting where you can count on getting some of the latest information on breast cancer treatment. This year, there were three themes that resonated strongly: we will fight cancer better, prevention has many new partners, and we should be focusing on survivorship within the continuum of care.

In the last few years we have been fortunate to have major discoveries in targeted therapies that have allowed us to fight cancer better. We have seen this best in Her 2 neu amplified cancers where targeted therapies can be effective even without chemotherapy in killing cancer. This year at the SABCS we saw other targeted therapies as well. There were many presentations focusing on PI3Kinase inhibition, and a renewed interest and demonstration of efficacy in the PARP inhibitors for triple negative breast cancers. More work needs to be done, but we have reason to be more optimistic than ever before. In addition to the developing targets we will use to fight cancer better, how we will monitor response to therapy was also a popular theme. There was data presented that measuring circulating tumor cells was not helpful in deciding change of therapy for patients with metastatic breast cancer.

Prevention had many new partners at the SABCS meeting as well. Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (Evista) have been the only agents used in chemoprevention of breast cancer for some time, but at SABCS, good evidence from the IBIS-II trial suggested that Anastrozole (Arimidex) is effective at chemoprevention among post menopausal women, and may be less toxic. There was also continued evidence that exercise and good health could reduce risk.

Lastly, survivorship has now been recognized as an important part of breast cancer treatment. While the conference has always been focused on treating the entire patient, the plenary sessions have often been restricted to molecular discovery as opposed to understanding patient support along the continuum of care. Dr. Fallowfield gave a plenary lecture discussing psychosocial issues relating to survivorship in an analysis of how we are doing as a field.

We have a long way to go, but we are making progress at a rapid rate. With you, I will remain impatient for more discovery and optimistic about our future.

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