What’s New in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment?

Criterium’s Academic Breast Cancer Consortium (ABRCC) is comprised of 15 renowned academic and community sites in North America, conducting translational research in Breast Cancer studies for major pharmaceutical companies who are working on the most current clinical trials for advanced treatments of breast cancer. While 2020 was a year dominated by COVID-19 news and tragedy, breast cancer research and breakthroughs can’t wait for COVID to “go away” – and research in this area continues on full-speed. Our ABRCC researchers reflect on 2020 and look ahead to 2021 with renewed hope.

Breast Cancer Survival Rates - American Cancer Society

New lab tests: Liquid biopsies – CTC’s and ctDNA

Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are cancer cells that break away from the tumor and move into the bloodstream. Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) is DNA that is released into the bloodstream when cancer cells die. Researchers are investigating tests that measure the amount of CTCs and ctDNA in the blood of women with breast cancer. Identifying and testing the CTCs and ctDNA in the blood is sometimes referred to as a “liquid biopsy.” This type of biopsy may offer an easier and less expensive way to test the tumor than a traditional needle biopsy, which comes with risks such as bleeding and infection.

Some studies have shown that in women with metastatic (Stage 4) breast cancer, a high level of CTCs might predict a poorer outcome compared to women with a lower level. Although more studies are needed before liquid biopsies could replace the traditional needle biopsy, some potential uses include:

  • Looking for new gene changes (mutations) in the tumor cells that might mean the cancer has become resistant to specific treatments (like aromatase inhibitors)
  • Determining if a certain drug will work on a tumor before trying it
  • Helping decide if a woman’s cancer is responding to a certain treatment by noticing a decline in CTC level
  • Predicting if the breast cancer will recur (come back) in women with early stage breast cancer

New imaging tests

Newer types of tests are being developed for breast imaging. Some of these are already being used in certain situations, while others are still being studied. It will take time to see if they are as good as or better than those used today.

Some of these tests include:

  • Scintimammography (molecular breast imaging)
  • Positron emission mammography (PEM)
  • Electrical impedance imaging (EIT)
  • Elastography
  • New types of optical imaging tests

For more on these tests, see Newer and Experimental Breast Imaging Tests.

Here’s a link to the current American Cancer Society Publication:
Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2019-2020.

SOURCE: Article “Advances in Breast Cancer Research” originally published by the National Cancer Institute; Image courtesy of the American Cancer Society.

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