Breast cancer breakthroughs

This month, the colors of fall surround us – with one exception: the sea of pink ribbons reminding us that it’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And while it’s a helpful prompt to schedule your next cancer screening, it’s also a good time to look to the future. Here are a few of the latest technologies to detect, treat and prevent breast cancer:


Better detection with new imaging tests
  • Optical imaging tests shine light into breast tissue and measure the amount of light that passes through or comes back. Optical imaging doesn’t emit radiation or require the breast to be compressed to view it. It’s currently being studied in combination with other tests like 3D mammography or MRI.
  • Molecular breast imaging (MBI) uses a radioactive tracer and a special camera to detect breast cancer. It’s being studied for use in cases where follow-up is needed – such as when a lump is found or a mammogram is abnormal. And research has already shown it may be particularly effective in detection for women with dense breasts (about half of all women).
  • Positron emission mammography (PEM) uses sugar attached to a radioactive particle to detect breast cancer cells and may be better at spotting small clusters of cancer cells in the breast than other methods. Right now, it’s being studied in women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or other breast issues to see if it can determine which lumps are cancer.
  • Electrical impedance imaging (EIT) passes a very small electrical current through the breast to study it for electrical conductivity, with the idea being that breast cancer cells conduct electricity differently from normal cells. EIT does not use radiation or require breast compression, and the technology is currently being used to help classify tumors found in mammograms.


More effective treatments on the horizon
  • Palbociclib is a new targeted treatment for advanced breast cancer. It’s a pill designed to block two molecules that play a role in making breast cancer resistant to hormone therapy: cyclin-dependent kinase 4 and cyclin-dependent kinase 6.
  • Immunotherapy fights cancer using your body’s own immune system. Three immunotherapies have already been FDA-approved for breast cancer: the targeted antibodies pertuzumab and trastuzumab, and the antibody-drug conjugate trastuzumab emtansine.


Reducing risk of recurrence

Aromatase inhibitors are a form of hormone therapy used in breast cancer treatment. While standard hormone therapy is recommended for five years following treatment, recent studies show giving aromatase inhibitors for 10 years could decrease the likelihood of cancer returning.



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