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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Risk For Recurrence

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STUDY: New targeted therapy for early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer

The KATHERINE trial looked at the benefit of the new drug, Kadcyla, for treating early-stage breast cancer after surgery and chemotherapy. The results of this study led to FDA approval in May 2019. (6/17/19)

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STUDY: Can some women with early-stage breast cancer forego chemotherapy?

A research study named the “Trial Assigning Individualized Options for Treatment” (TAILORx) asked whether chemotherapy is beneficial for women who have mid-range Oncotype DX tumor recurrence scores. This trial — the largest breast cancer treatment trial ever conducted— showed that endocrine therapy alone was as effective as endocrine therapy plus chemotherapy in women with certain types of early-stage breast cancer. The results of this trial are expected to be immediately practice changing (7/20/18)

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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: Survival and mutation status in breast cancer patients under age 40

Studies have found conflicting rates of survival for BRCA mutation carriers who develop breast cancer, reporting better, worse and similar outcomes compared to patients with sporadic breast cancer. New results of the large Prospective Outcomes in Sporadic versus Hereditary (POSH) breast cancer study found no difference in survival rates between the two groups. The study also concluded that among young triple-negative breast cancer patients during the first 2 years after diagnosis, BRCA mutation carriers had an initial survival advantage compared to women without a BRCA mutation. (02/15/18)

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STUDY: What is the risk of breast cancer recurrence after nipple-sparing mastectomy?

Nipple-sparing mastectomy (NSM) offers better cosmetic results for women who have immediate breast reconstruction (at the same time as their mastectomy). Over the past decade, NSM has gained popularity among surgeons and patients. Studies show that women who keep their own nipples have higher rates of satisfaction and psychological well-being after mastectomy and reconstruction compared to women who lose their nipples. However, little data exists on the long-term risk of recurrence following NSM. New research adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that risk of recurrence is low after NSM in carefully selected patients with breast cancer. (1/25/18)

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STUDY: Does extended hormonal treatment impact risk of recurrence?

Hormonal therapy significantly reduces the risk of recurrence for women with early-stage estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Standard hormonal therapy is given for 5 years; extending that therapy for a longer period offers additional protection but has added side effects.  A new study looked at women who stopped hormonal therapy after 5 years and identified factors that may guide the decision to extend treatment.  (12/21/17)

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STUDY: Can MammaPrint guide treatment decisions?

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recently updated its guidelines for MammaPrint, a genomic tumor test that guides treatment decisions for patients with early-stage invasive breast cancer. The update was based on results from the MINDACT study (11/16/17). 

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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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ARTICLE: Can your breast cancer come back?

Elaine Howley’s piece for US News & World Report, “Can My Breast Cancer Come Back?” examines a common misperception that many breast cancer patients have after completing treatment, and explains what can actually occur. (7/25/17)

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STUDY: Common genetic change found in some tumors of patients who relapse after aromatase inhibitor treatment

About one in five people diagnosed with estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer relapse within 10 years after treatment. Researchers and health care providers do not know why this happens. This early research aims to identify a genetic change in the tumor that may cause relapse, but more studies are needed to understand why patients relapse and who is at risk. (5/3/17)

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STUDY: Friends and family may help breast cancer survival

Does having a large social network help breast cancer survivors have better outcomes? Research from the current study found that socially isolated breast cancer survivors had an increased risk of recurrence and breast cancer-specific mortality. (3/16/17)

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STUDY: High vitamin D levels at breast cancer diagnosis may be associated with a better prognosis

Vitamin D is most known for its role in maintaining bone health. Recent research looked at its role in many other biological processes and diseases, including breast cancer. In this study, researchers found that breast cancer patients who had the highest amounts of vitamin D in their blood (slightly over the recommended levels) had better health outcomes, including overall survival, than women with lower amounts of vitamin D. This finding adds to the growing evidence for the role of vitamin D in cancer, but it does not change how breast cancer is prevented or treated. (1/10/17)

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STUDY: New guidelines for DCIS breast-conserving surgery

Breast-conserving therapy (which includes lumpectomy and radiation treatment) increases survival rates for patients who have DCIS. But what amount of extra tissue outside the tumor should be removed to minimize breast cancer recurrence? (10/4/16)

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ARTICLE: A cancer patient’s tumor is genetically profiled—how does that info help her treatment?

Jessica Wapner's Scientific American article explores the difficulties of making the vast amount of information acquired from tumor gene tests useful to patients and physicians. (9/20/16).

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STUDY: Tumor gene test may determine which breast cancer patients can forgo chemotherapy

Because women may experience negative side effects after chemotherapy, researchers wanted a way to determine which breast cancer patients can avoid chemotherapy without affecting their survival. This study suggests that a test that looks at 70 genes in breast tumors may be able to identify breast cancer patients who can do without chemotherapy for their disease. (9/13/16)

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STUDY: Extending aromatase inhibitor duration to 10 years lowers recurrence for ER/PR+ breast cancer patients

Hormonal therapy reduces the risk of recurrence for women with early-stage breast cancer that is ER-and/or PR-positive. Standard therapy lasts 5 years. A new study looks at whether extending one type of hormonal therapy, known as aromatase inhibitor therapy, to 10 years lowers recurrence rates even more for these women. (7/26/16)

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STUDY: Can long periods of fasting protect against breast cancer recurrence?

Previous research in mice suggested that long periods of fasting provide protection against factors that are associated with a poor cancer outcome. A new study associates prolonged fasting (13 hours or more) at night with a lower risk of breast cancer recurrence, but no association between fasting time at night and mortality. While these findings are interesting, more research needs to be done to confirm them. In the meantime, breast cancer survivors should discuss any concerns about nutrition with their health care providers. 05/30/16

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STUDY: More patients with invasive breast cancer opting for double mastectomies

Women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer have a number of surgical options. They can have breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) with radiation, a unilateral (single) mastectomy to remove only the tissue from the cancerous breast, or a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM), which removes both breasts. A new study finds that more women are opting for CPM, yet overall survival for these patients is not increasing. (5/3/2016)

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STUDY: Cellular diversity in tumors may predict survival for some types of breast cancer

Some tumors are made up of many different types of cells, while others contain generally the same cell type. A new study found that among people with high-grade breast cancer, those who have tumors made up of many different cell types have a lower 10-year survival rate than people with tumors containing only a single type of cells. This research is an early step towards developing a new test that can help physicians identify cancers that need more aggressive treatment, but more research is needed before it is ready for clinical use. (4/26/16)

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STUDY: Smoking before or after a breast cancer diagnosis associated with poorer breast cancer survival

Cigarette smoking is an important public health issue that causes more than 480,000 deaths annually. Smoking increases the risk of many diseases, from heart disease to stroke. This research indicates that smoking before and or after a diagnosis of breast cancer affects survival, and also shows that it is never too late to quit smoking. (02/23/16)

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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. (02/02/16)

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STUDY: Does lumpectomy or mastectomy provide better survival for women with early stage breast cancer?

Previous research has hinted that women who have breast-conserving surgeries have the same, if not better, overall survival as women who have mastectomies. Researchers in this study wanted to see if that was true; they found that women who chose breast-conserving surgeries did have a higher overall survival. However, this study, presented at the 2015 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, had limitations that make it difficult to interpret the results or to extend them to all women with breast cancer. (01/19/2016)

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STUDY: New research may lead to a blood test that detects breast cancer recurrence earlier

Recent headlines announced a blood test that can potentially predict which breast cancer survivors are at risk of recurrence. This particular blood test, one of many being developed, is sometimes called a “liquid biopsy.” This early research focuses on a technique that is promising, but not yet available to breast cancer survivors. (10/12/15)

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STUDY: All DCIS is not the same: Young women and African American women at higher risk after DCIS diagnosis

Diagnoses of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), sometimes called stage 0 breast cancer, have increased in recent decades. Many people with DCIS wonder if they need aggressive treatment. A recent study looking at the survival of over 100,000 women found that breast cancer mortality after DCIS is low (3%), and identified groups of women who are at higher risk after DCIS. (9/8/15)

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