Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of women each year. Although it’s rare, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. With breast cancer continuing to impact so many people, it’s important to understand the disease and what strides researchers are making.
- More than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors live in the U.S. today.
- The lifetime risk of getting breast cancer in the U.S. is about 1 in 8 for women and 1 in 1,000 for men.
- Research shows only 5-10% of breast cancers are hereditary.
- Dense breasts can be six times more likely to develop cancer. If you have dense breasts, ask your doctor about extra screening tests, like ultrasound or MRI, to check for tumors that a mammography might have missed.
- A lump isn’t the only sign of breast cancer. Call your doctor if you notice a change in the size or shape of your breast, a nipple turned inward, fluid other than breast milk, dimples in your breast or scaly, red or swollen skin on your breast, nipple or areola.
Source: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2019
Breast Cancer Research
In addition to specific projects listed below, genomics research is helping us attack breast cancer – and all types of cancer. NFCR has distinguished itself from other organizations by emphasizing long-term, transformative research and working to move people toward cancer genomics.
NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Susan Horwitz’s work has been instrumental in the development of a successful class of anti-cancer drugs called Microtubule-Stabilizing Agents (MSAs) – a class that includes Taxol®. Dr. Horwitz is now collaborating with NFCR-funded organic chemist Dr. Amos B. Smith, III to develop MSA hybrid drugs to overcome drug resistance problems associated with treatments using Taxol for Triple Negative Breast Cancer. With promising preliminary results, the two scientists are now testing the effectiveness and toxicity of some hybrid drugs.
NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Daniel Haber developed the CTC-iChip — an advanced micro-engineered device that captures extremely rare circulating tumor cells from the blood. Genetic testing on captured CTCs may give doctors a way to more effectively treat the tumor or stop it from spreading. Moreover, CTCs allow the response of treatments to be monitored in real-time. This device could dramatically improve treatment and diagnosis for many different types of metastatic cancers, including metastatic breast cancer.
Dr. Danny Welch and his team are exploring how mitochondria – a specialized cell part that generates energy for our bodies – may determine why breast cancer metastases develop in some patients, but not in others. Differences in tumor formation, metastasis location and responses to therapy could be from our mitochondrial DNA. With continued success, this research may suggest that a simple blood test can help guide doctors in treating those patients who are susceptible to metastasis and may need more aggressive treatment.