There is always a bit of a thrill, walking into a huge lecture hall filled with thousands of like-minded people all with one goal…to eradicate breast cancer.
The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium is an international breast cancer conference that has been held for the past thirty-seven years in San Antonio, Texas. Initially started as a regional conference, the Symposium is now a five-day program attended by over 7,000 researchers and physicians from over 90 countries. When you hear breast cancer in the news in December, it is likely coming from this conference.
The theme of this year’s conference seems to be focused on hormone receptor positive disease, though there are other breast cancer types that had interesting developments as well.
For years, breast cancer has been subdivided into those that express estrogen and progesterone receptors and those that do not. We are now beginning to realize that within each of these subtypes of breast cancer, there is a large amount of variability in response to therapy and resistance to therapy over time.
The science presented in the first morning of this meeting was focused on examining those differences and trying to exploit them with different types of therapy. Much of the science in this session was focused on what we call “pre-clinical” studies. These are really studies that lay the groundwork for doing further investigation of particular new medications in humans. What’s clear from the session so far, is that treatment for hormone receptor breast cancer is about to become much more complicated in the coming years. Rather than a one-size (or really a one-age) fits all approach to hormone receptor positive disease as is common now (i.e. prescribing tamoxifen for premenopausal women with hormone receptor positive breast cancer and aromatase inhibitors for postmenopausal women with hormone receptor positive breast cancer), there will likely be additional tests run on tumors to determine the right cocktail of hormone receptor targeted therapies that will work to maximize benefit and minimize the potential for resistance and long-term side effects.