Talking about recent breakthroughs in breast cancer research is, at the very least, a glimmer of hope for those who have been affected by this disease. I was still a teenager when one of my closest cousins died from breast cancer. She was just 33 at the time. Then, my mom couldn’t survive a very late stage of ovarian cancer. That’s why any news that promises a brighter future, either as prevention or treatment, makes our faith grow fonder.
Even though the mortality rate has decreased in the last 25 years, around 40,000 women lose their life to breast cancer every year, according to the American Cancer Society. In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month, and in the spirit of optimism, we share the most recent breakthroughs in breast cancer research and how these can become a “happy ending” for millions of women in the future.
Blood test to detect breast cancer
Breast cancer is usually confirmed by a mammography and consequent biopsies. However, a team of French and Australian scientists discovered that the presence of isotopes carbon-13 and nitrogen-15 in certain proportions in a tissue sample can reveal whether the tissue is healthy or cancerous. The investigation is still going and it could take at least 10 years to be fully approved, but that means we might have a non-invasive way to detect and monitor breast cancer in the horizon.
A common medicine
Even though there’s no solid evidence that aspirin could help reduce breast cancer, an observational study by Harvard University found out that women with stage I, II, or III breast cancer who took aspirin two to five times per week were 71% less likely to die from this disease than those who didn’t take it. Of course, doctors haven’t given this drug a “green light” as a breast cancer treatment, but it’s certainly peace of mind for the long run.
Starting from the cells
Cancer cells multiply at such rates that doctors sometimes fail to find an explanation, but a research at Weill Cornell Medical College may have found hope. Scientists identified a protein in the genetic code that could affect the growth of tumors, and even strengthen them. The study was conducted on women with advanced breast cancer (triple-negative, which doesn’t respond well to many treatments) so the discovery is key to see if tumors are capable of self-destruction.
Triple-negative breast cancer is considered one of the most aggressive types that usually affects Latino, black, and young women. It responds only to surgery, radiation and chemotherapies, and even then it could return. However, a small study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that the drugs used in immunotherapy (where medicines activate the individual’s own immune system) stopped the cancer’s progression in 27% of the patients (there were only 54 women with breast cancer in the investigation). The research hasn’t shown results on a larger scale, but it is a promising breakthrough.