Susan G. Komen launched the first episode of an exciting new educational series called Breast Cancer Breakthroughs where industry experts, scientists and patient advocates share and discuss the newest developments in breast cancer research and technology on the horizon for patients.
In this first installment of the Breast Cancer Breakthroughs series, Victoria Smart, Senior Vice President of Mission at Komen, joins Thelma Brown, a two-time breast cancer survivor and Komen Advocate in Science, and Dr. Sara Tolaney, Komen Scholar and oncologist, to discuss some of the exciting developments that came out of the 2022 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).
Results from the POSITIVE Trial
The highly anticipated results of the POSITIVE (Pregnancy Outcome and Safety of Interrupting Therapy for Women with Endocrine Responsive Breast Cancer) trial found that young women with early hormone receptor-positive breast cancer can safely pause their hormone therapy to have children.
This is great news for young women with early hormone receptor-positive breast cancer who are faced with the choice of waiting five to 10 years to complete their treatment before starting a family or pausing therapy to try to conceive and have a baby before resuming therapy, Dr. Tolaney explains in the episode.
“I think this is a huge finding,” Dr. Tolaney says, “and I think a really important one because it does tell us that for women who have early-stage hormone receptor-positive cancers, we can consider taking this break to allow them to go on to have children.”
Another exciting development in breast cancer treatment is an emerging class of drugs called antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) . These drugs, also known as “smart bombs,” are a combination of an antibody that targets a specific receptor on a cancer cell and chemotherapy drugs that the antibody can help guide directly into the cancer cell.
ADCs are unique from other therapies in that they can deliver a maximum amount of therapy straight to cancer cells while sparing the healthy cells in a person’s body from the toxic effects of chemotherapy.
Dr. Tolaney shares some of the most recent ADCs that have received FDA approval for metastatic breast cancer, including sacituzumab-govitecan (Troldevy), which allows women with metastatic triple negative breast cancer to live almost three times longer than with standard chemotherapy.
The possibilities of ADCs are extremely exciting for many patients who see them as a new weapon in their arsenal, Thelma explains in the episode.
“It’s very important that when patients look for the next drug, that there is something there waiting for them,” Thelma says. “And that’s what patients see as the promise of these ADCs. It represents more options, and it represents hope.”
More Diversity Needed in Clinical Trials
While targeted therapies like ADCs are helping patients stay one step ahead of breast cancer, their development is only possible through continued patient participation in clinical trials. As Dr. Tolaney explains in the video, clinical trials give patients a unique opportunity to access drugs before they are approved, and these treatments could work better than standard therapies.
Unfortunately, patients who would benefit most from clinical trials are noticeably underrepresented, and these numbers are even worse for communities of color. This inequity is the result of not one but many complex, systemic barriers that prevent communities of color from participating in this critical research.
“We have financial barriers, we have access barriers, we have education barriers, we have structural barriers,” Thelma explains. “All of those lead to low participation in clinical trials and the populations that are most at risk – the populations that have most to lose in that they have higher morbidity and are least represented in clinical trials.”
“There are barriers from the patient perspective, and also barriers from a physician perspective,” Dr. Tolaney adds. “It is really critical that we work to overcome these barriers so that our patients have access to these drugs that have potential to really change their treatment outcomes so dramatically.”
To increase future participation, it will take a collective effort from all stakeholders involved, from those funding the studies to the institutions that determine where the research will be performed. “There’s much work to be done,” Thelma explains. “We need a new model, but it’s time to stop talking about it. It’s time to move from awareness to action, but it’s going to take all of us.”
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If you’d like more information about choosing a clinical trial, Komen has a tool for choosing a trial that’s right for you.