BCM co-hosted breast cancer symposium gains worldwide attention in 35th year

Jan. 1, 2013

The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, co-sponsored by BCM, attracted more than 7,500 researchers, clinicians and breast cancer advocates.
The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, co-sponsored by BCM, attracted more than 7,500 researchers, clinicians and breast cancer advocates.

The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, co-hosted by Baylor College of Medicine, wrapped up its 35th annual meeting Dec. 8. More than 7,500 clinicians, researchers and advocates from 100 countries travelled to San Antonio to meet and discuss groundbreaking clinical, translational and basic breast cancer research.

News media from around the world covered research presented at the meeting, which generated more than 150 million BCM media impressions throughout the country and internationally. Media impressions represent the number of people who may have seen an article, heard a report on the radio or in a podcast, watched a broadcast report on television, or read an article on a web page or blog that mentioned Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Kent Osborne of BCM speaks at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
Dr. Kent Osborne of BCM speaks at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Dr. Kent Osborne, director of the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center and the NCI-designated Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center at BCM, has served as co-director of the meeting since 1992. See more information on the history of the conference and BCM's involvement.

Some of the research highlights included a potentially practice-changing study that focused on comparing the extended duration of adjuvant treatment with tamoxifen for women with estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer. The study looked at extending the current standard of five years of treatment to 10 years in about 7,000 women. The study showed a greater protection against late recurrence and death from the disease with 10 years of treatment.

"There was a 23 percent reduction in the risk of recurrence that appeared most prominently in years 10 to 15 after tamoxifen was stopped. Thus a major effect of extended tamoxifen was to reduce the very late recurrences sometimes seen in patients with estrogen receptor positive disease," said Osborne.

This finding contradicts two smaller prior studies that did not show a benefit to prolonged tamoxifen, but the recent trial is more definitive because it was much larger, he said.

"The results of this trial are most important for premenopausal women with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer who have a relatively higher rate of recurrence such as a patient with a large tumor or positive lymph nodes at the time of the original surgery. Postmenopausal patients today with a high risk of recurrence are typically treated with an aromatase inhibitor and not tamoxifen so the impact in that group will be less. However, some older patients are still treated with tamoxifen because they cannot tolerate aromatase inhibitors."

A new combination treatment for patients with late-stage breast cancer also made headlines. The combination included an investigational treatment together with the aromatase inhibitor letrozole. The study showed patients who received the combination treatment had a marked delay in the progression of their cancer compared to letrozole alone.

"The experimental drug blocks a protein called CDK4/6 involved in proliferation of the cancer cells and, because this study was so dramatic, future studies of the drug, now called 991, will be started in the near future," said Osborne. "The drug should be approved for metastatic breast cancer in the future."

Additionally, a study in patients with HER2-positive breast cancer that showed no additional benefit in taking two years of the targeted treatment trastuzumab as opposed to one was very important news for those taking the drug.

Trastuzumab is very effective in these patients but is also expensive and the finding that extending it to two years was no more effective than the standard one year has important implications for the cost of medical care, Osborne said. "Studies of even shorter durations of 6 months also look promising."