Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Breast Cancer News (8/3): Mammography, Hercpetin and the NCCN Guide for Patients

Today in breast cancer news, we'll highlight a study on the radiation damage caused by screening mammography, two studies on the neoadjuvant (before surgery) use of Herceptin and the new patient-friendly guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).

DNA damage from screening mammography

Once concern in the screening mammography debate is the exposure to radiation. A July 29 study in the International Journal of Radiation Biology assessed mammography induced DNA damage, in the form of double-strand breaks, in cells of women with high and low risk of breast cancer. DNA double-strand breaks were induced by mammography in all patients, and the effects were "exacerbated" in high-risk patients. The researchers concluded, "These findings may lead us to re-evaluate the number of views performed in screening using a single view (oblique) in women whose mammographic benefit has not properly been proved such as the 40-49 and HR [high risk] patients."

Neoadjuvant use of Herceptin

Herceptin (trastuzumab) is used to treat HER2 positive breast cancer. This week, two studies addressed the use of Herceptin in the neoadjuvant setting, to shrink tumors before surgery.

A July 25 study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that the neoadjuvant combination of Herceptin plus chemotherapy resulted in a high rate of pathological complete response (pCR), "defined as no residual invasive tumor in breast and lymphatic tissue." Women with pCR who continued Herceptin after surgery had "an improved long-term outcome." On the other hand, patients "without a pCR had an increased risk for relapse and death."

A July 25 review of five trials (515 patients) in Breast (Edinburgh, Scotland) found the addition of Herceptin to chemotherapy in the "neoadjuvant setting improves the probability of achieving higher pCR with no additional toxicity."

NCCN Guidelines for Breast Cancer Patients

For doctors, the NCCN publishes Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, which outline a recommended standard of care for the treatment of cancer. This week, the NCCN released a patient-friendly version for breast cancer called the NCCN Guidelines for Patients. It's a terrific starting point for the newly diagnosed, covering breast cancer development, detection, staging, and standard-of-care treatment options by type. It even addresses side effects, complementary therapy and caregiver issues.

Our website,, is an additional resource for breast cancer patients. Patients may explore the latest news and research on the standard-of-care treatment options mentioned in the NCCN Guidelines and up-and-coming tests and treatment options in development. In addition, subscribers may personalize their research to their pathology reports to see the test and treatment options applicable to them.

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