Whilst survival rates for breast cancer are improving, sadly 30% of breast cancers will return.  As Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins today (October 1st) Breast Cancer Ireland wish to announce developments and investments in research and treatments that focus specifically on the cohort of women whose cancer reoccurs, with the aim of providing them with improved treatment options. 

Even months or years after the original diagnosis and treatment, cancer cells can break away and metastasize from the original tumor in the breast and travel to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system.  Research into metastatic breast cancer has been limited in the past, leaving these women with few options and the prospect of more surgery, radiation and non-specific treatments as their only option. 

A new enzyme-focused treatment is currently proving very successful.  This treatment targets enzymes which are important in cell division and can interrupt and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. When used in combination with hormone therapy, it can extend survival in patients who previously failed standard endocrine treatment. 

General Breast and Endocrine Surgeon, Professor Arnie Hill who is also Chairman of Breast Cancer Ireland is seeing positive results of this new enzyme focused treatment in selected patients. He is working closely with the Endocrine Oncology Research Group, based in the BCI labs of the Royal College of Surgeons, headed up by Professor Leonie Young on exploring how these inhibitors can provide a lifeline for those whose cancers have returned. 

Earlier this year Breast Cancer Ireland initiated a collaboration with one of the best and most progressive breast research centres in the US; The Ludwig Breast Cancer Centre at the University of Chicago, to facilitate an international collaborative research programme into metastatic disease. It will see labs in Dublin and Chicago working together and with monies raised through the Great Pink Run with Glanbia taking place in Chicago, Dublin and Kilkenny later this month, this research can be extended and enhanced to support this major endeavor. 

Breast Cancer Ireland aims to transform the landscape but according to Aisling Hurley, CEO of Breast Cancer Ireland, there is much more to be done, “Those women whose cancers return deserve to have more treatment options available to them.  They have all been through their cancer journey once already and we owe it to them to offer more effective drug-based treatments. As Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins, we wish to share with our community of survivors the tireless work that is ongoing in our labs and by our clinicians in our hospitals and we wish to affirm our commitment for funding this research. Awareness programmes, early diagnosis and developments in treatments have resulted in more positive outcomes which is wonderful, but we pledge to stand beside those impacted by the disease at every stage and make a real difference into the future”.