XRAYS - Making Sense of Cancer Headlines

FORCE’s eXamining the Relevance of Articles for Young Survivors (XRAYS) program is a reliable resource for breast cancer research-related news and information. XRAYS reviews new breast cancer research, provides plain-language summaries, and rates how the media covered the topic. XRAYS is funded by the CDC.

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Metastatic Breast Cancer

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STUDY: FDA approves an immunotherapy treatment for some patients with triple-negative breast cancer

The FDA approved the use of the immunotherapy drug Tecentriq (atezolizumab) in combination with the chemotherapy agent Abraxane (nab-paclitaxel) for certain patients with advanced triple-negative breast cancer.


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STUDY: Smart drug shows promising results for treatment of metastatic triple-negative breast cancer

We report results of an early-stage clinical trial of a new class of drugs for metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). IMMU-132 is an antibody-drug conjugate, meaning that it combines two different molecules: an antibody that targets certain proteins or tumor markers and delivers SN-38, a chemotherapy drug that can kill tumor cells. This study looks at whether IMMU-132 is safe and effective for treating metastatic TNBC. (4/16/19)

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ARTICLE: The cost of cancer care and impact of financial hardship on treatment


Several recent studies on the cost of cancer care show the negative effects on cancer patients. In this XRAYS we review a recent article by Kaiser Health News and associated studies about the financial impact of breast cancer treatment and cost of precision medicine. (2/8/19)

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STUDY: The impact of palbociclib (Ibrance) on overall survival for metastatic breast cancer patients in the PALOMA-3 trial


The PALOMA-3 clinical trial showed that a new CDK4/6 inhibitor in combination therapy improved progression-free survival of women treated for hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative advanced or metastatic breast cancer in women with prior disease progression after endocrine therapy. This XRAYS reviews a newly published study in the New England Journal of Medicine that looks at overall survival in the original PALOMA-3 study. (1/23/19)

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STUDY: Immunotherapy may lead to long-term remission of metastatic breast cancer

Metastatic breast cancer is often difficult to treat. In a new approach, called adoptive cell therapy (ACT), a patient’s own T-cells (a type of cancer-fighting immune cells) are collected, multiplied in a lab, and then returned to the patient. The goal is to enhance the patient’s immune system with many more T-cells that recognize and attack metastasized tumor cells. This study reports on a single patient whose metastatic breast cancer is still in remission (no evidence of disease) after more than 22 months following ACT. (8/16/18)

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STUDY: Metastasis in mice is affected by wound healing and inflammation

This study in mice looked at how wound healing after surgery affects metastasis. Researchers found that wound healing caused changes in the mouse immune system that allowed some cancer cells to grow, but that treatment with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) reduced inflammation and frequency of metastases. While this research is promising, it remains to be seen if similar effects occur in humans. (5/17/18)

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STUDY: Is asparagus linked to breast cancer metastasis?

A new study published in the journal Nature shows that asparagine, a protein building block that takes its name from asparagus, promotes the spread of breast cancer in mice. The study by cancer experts from Britain, Canada and the U.S. investigated whether limiting the levels of asparagine in mice could reduce tumor metastasis. (3/2/18)

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ARTICLE: Coping with the financial burden of breast cancer

U.S. News & World Report recently talked to three breast cancer survivors, including two young women, about how they handled out-of-pocket costs and other medical expenses after their cancer diagnosis. (Posted 1/4/18)

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STUDY: Can chemotherapy before surgery fuel breast cancer metastasis?

Some breast cancer patients are given neoadjuvant (before surgery) chemotherapy. However, some recent studies have raised concerns that neoadjuvant treatment might actually trigger cancer spread in certain situations. In the current study, researchers used mouse models and human breast cancers to explore this possibility. (10/10/17)

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STUDY: Immunotherapy shows promise in triple-negative breast cancer

THIS INFORMATION HAS BEEN UPDATED on 04/06/19: Based on published research studies, the FDA approved atezolizumab (Tecentriq) used in combination with the chemotherapy drug nab–paclitaxel (Abraxane) for women with locally advanced or metastatic triple-negative breast cancer that cannot be treated surgically and whose tumors are positive for a protein called PD-L1. The FDA also approved a companion diagnostic test called the VENTANA PD-L1 Assay, to identify patients with triple-negative breast cancer who are candidates for this treatment.

Patients diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) do not have many treatment options. Immunotherapy, a new type of cancer treatment, pushes the body’s natural defense or immune system to fight cancer. A new immunotherapy drug, atezolizumab (Tecentriq) may improve survival for patients with metastatic TNBC. (07/11/17)  

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ARTICLE: Does metastasis happen earlier than previously thought?

Sharon Begley discusses an unconventional new idea about how cancer cells spread (a process known as metastasis) in her recent piece for the website STAT. She states that, “cancer cells spread way earlier than thought, seeding metastases that cause most deaths.” (3/28/17)

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ARTICLE: CBS News brings attention to the issues facing young metastatic breast cancer patients

Beth Caldwell is a former civil rights lawyer, a mother of two, and a wife who was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer when she 37. Mary Brophy Marcus covered Beth’s story in her piece, “The hardest part” of breast cancer under 40, for CBS News. (11/8/16)

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ARTICLE: Huffington Post article brings attention to metastatic breast cancer

Barbara Jacoby's Huffington Post piece, "How do breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer differ?" emphasizes the need for more treatment options for patients with advanced breast cancer.

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STUDY: Factors that affect the ability to work in people with metastatic cancer

Some patients who live with metastatic cancer either want or need to continue working while coping with symptoms of their disease and treatment. A recent study that looked at over 600 people with metastatic breast, prostate, colon, or lung cancer found that about one-third of them continue working full or part time. People most likely to continue working were those undergoing hormonal treatment and those with less severe symptoms or side effects from treatment. (4/12/16)

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STUDY: Sugar promotes tumor growth and metastasis in mouse model breast cancer

Previous human studies found associations between high sugar intake and breast cancer risk. This study looked at the direct effect of sugar on breast cancer growth and metastasis in mice. While researchers observed that sugar increased tumor growth and metastasis, more work needs to be done to see if this finding is relevant in humans. It is important to remember, the overall health benefits of limiting sugar intake remain undisputed.

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STUDY: Do antioxidants encourage the spread of cancer cells?

Metastasis, the spread of cancer cells from a primary tumor to another site in the body, is a complex process. Researchers do not understand why a few cells metastasize while other cells do not. A study performed in mouse models suggests that high doses of some antioxidants may make it easier for cancer cells to metastasize.

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STUDY: Clinical trial looks at combining cancer vaccine and chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer patients

A phase II clinical trial has looked at whether metastatic breast cancer patients improve after receiving a combination of chemotherapy and an experimental cancer vaccine. While the results of the trial show a trend towards longer time without their cancer progressing, a larger clinical trial needs to be done to confirm this finding.

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