Pharma Strategy Blog

Commentary on Pharma & Biotech Oncology / Hematology New Product Development

There was an interesting abstract in last month's British Journal of Cancer on breast cancer which states:

"Using archived tumours, those from 1984–1986 and 1996–1997 underwent
immunohistochemistry for hormone receptors and grade analysis. A
significant shift towards more ER-positive and low-grade disease was
found; this appears to reflect screening practices, but could still
influence survival."

The research suggests that the type of breast cancer women are being diagnosed with is changing.  An increased probability of getting a slow growing hormone-sensitive tumour is not necessarily a bad thing since these can be treated effectively with tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors such as letrozole, anastrozole and exemestane.  Slow growing tumours generally have longer survival times compared to triple negative or HER-2 positive breast cancers, for example.

The proportion of cancers which were estrogen-receptor (ER) positive
changed significantly from 64.2% to 71.5% over the 10-year period. 
There was no change over time in the proportion of progesterone (PR) or HER-2 positive cancers.  However, what the research cannot tell us is whether hormone-sensitive breast cancer is on the rise or early screening methods have improved detection.  Further studies would be needed to determine whether changing lifestyles have influenced the trend.

Sources and Acknowledgements:

ResearchBlogging.orgS B F Brown, E A Mallon, J Edwards, F M Campbell, L M McGlynn, B Elsberger, T G Cooke (2009). Is the biology of breast cancer changing? A study of hormone receptor status 1984–1986 and 1996–1997 British Journal of Cancer DOI: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6604934

Thanks to @UKDivorce for alerting me to the article.  Keep 'em coming, folks!

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2 Responses to “Is the biology of breast cancer changing?”

  1. collegestudent

    So, is your job to read journals all the time and then make recommendations based on what you read, because that sounds like the most amazing job ever.
    You have just given me hope for my future career as a PhD, regardless of how idealized that description actually is.

  2. Sally Church

    Oh I wish! Actually I work 70 hour weeks running a start-up but isn’t life grand if I can give that impression 🙂

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