The 2023 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) brought together over 10,000 doctors, researchers, patient advocates and trainees to showcase promising new discoveries in breast cancer research that could dramatically improve treatment options for patients. In this episode of Susan G. Komen’s Breast Cancer Breakthroughs, we highlight the most exciting findings from SABCS, and hear from Komen grantees Dr. Isaac Chan, Dr. David Mankoff and Justin Balko, Ph.D., about what these findings could mean for patients.
Among this year’s SABCS attendees was patient advocate Ginny Mason, a 29-year survivor of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) and Executive Director of the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation, a grassroots advocacy organization that supports IBC research and shares information about IBC with medical professionals and the greater research community, including conferences like SABCS. Ginny has been attending SABCS for more than 20 years.
When asked what brings her back year after year, Ginny says, “We need to be informed in order to help what people see in the media. We have a responsibility as advocates to help translate what we’re hearing into the lay language that the public needs to hear.”
While this year’s program had plenty to offer in terms of exciting news to bring back to patients, Ginny and other patient advocates are a constant reminder that the experiences of the patient should be the front and center of breast cancer research.
New Treatment Options
One of the biggest announcements out of SABCS this year were the INAVO120 trial results, which gave a promising update for patients with metastatic hormone receptor-positive breast cancer with a PIK3CA gene mutation. With the addition of a new drug inavolisib to the standard treatment of palbociclib and fulvestrant, patients experienced an incredible 15-month progression free survival – almost twice the amount of time with palbociclib and fulvestrant alone. This trial could provide these patients with a more targeted treatment while also offering them an improved quality of life.
Other trials proposed bringing alternative drug options to new patients, such as the use of an immunotherapy that is currently only used to treat triple negative breast cancer, to treat estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer. As researcher Dr. Justin Balko explains in the video, immunotherapies can result in permanent, life-threatening toxicities for some patients, so more analysis is needed to determine who should receive this treatment.
Putting the patient first in treatment strategies is something that is being reinforced by the next generation of leaders in breast cancer research. Brandie Taylor, a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Balko’s lab who received Komen’s ASPIRE Grant award with Dr. Balko, also attended SABCS with the patient-first perspective. “I think this is really important to involve patients and patient advocates in scientific dialogue and scientific discussion,” Brandie says.
Optimizing Treatment to Improve Quality of Life
Patient quality of life was front and center throughout many discussions at SABCS. Several trial results presented at SABCS found that patients could safely reduce the amount of a treatment or remove it completely without affecting treatment outcomes. The IDEA clinical trial presented by Komen Scholar Reshma Jagsi, found that postmenopausal women ages 50-69 with stage 1, ER-positive breast cancer may safely skip radiation after their breast-conserving surgery (a lumpectomy).
Positive results for the phase 3 TROPION-Breast01 trial were presented at the ESMO Congress 2023, but updated results presented at SABCS showed compelling data that patients receiving an antibody-drug conjugate called Dato-DXd showed significantly better physical outcomes compared to those receiving chemotherapy. These patients also had fewer severe side effects and better treatment adherence than those who were receiving chemotherapy.
Bringing the Patient Voice to the Table
This year at SABCS, Ginny was part of an educational session about IBC – one of the first to focus on a lesser-known breast cancer and those who are affected by it.
“It was a very heartwarming experience when I got up on stage to look at the audience and see how many people were in the room,” Ginny says. “It was really exciting to see that kind of participation for a less common form of breast cancer.”
Today, more advocates like Ginny are bringing the patient voice to the table at forums like SABCS to help inform future studies that will bring better outcomes for patients.
“A clinical trial that doesn’t have a patient voice involved may not answer the question you want to answer,” Ginny says. “That’s why we need to be in there – not just to have a seat, but a voice, so that we’re asking the right questions about what really matters to patients.”
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