Over the past year we have made some important advancements in our knowledge about how breast cancer spreads by depositing cells into the bloodstream. And we could not have realized these advancements if not for the incredible generosity of our donors, including the Emma Jacobs Breast Cancer Foundation.
As a result of your participation, we have identified, characterized and validated the importance of harmful circulating cancer cells (CTCs) and disseminated cancer cells (DTCs) in operable breast cancer patients. Last year we published a first-of-its-kind paper in the Lancet Oncology demonstrating the clear prognostic significance of CTCs found in early-stage breast cancer patients. We have recently submitted a paper demonstrating the prognostic significance of CTCs in triple negative breast cancer patients to the journal Cancer. We are also developing methodologies to characterize CTCs and DTCs so that targeted therapies can be developed to kill these harmful cells.
In 2013 we published a paper in Cancer Medicine demonstrating that most CTCs and DTCs express a protein called HER2, even when it is not expressed by a patient's primary tumor. However, these patients are not offered standard anti-HER2 medications (such as Herceptin) that could kill these DTCs and CTCs because current cancer treatment decisions are based solely upon primary tumor characteristics. Our paper highlights the need for trials examining therapies directed against targets expressed by both primary tumor and CTCs/DTCs to improve outcomes for breast cancer patients with CTCs and/or DTCs. We have also recently submitted a paper showing the importance of CTCs in triple-negative breast cancer patients. This report is particularly important as triple-negative patients have only limited therapy options. Our next step is to characterize genetic mutations in the CTCs in these patients so that new, targeted therapies can be identified to improve outcomes in triple-negative breast cancer.
If any of the readers are interested, we would be happy to forward copies of the scientific manuscripts we have published. We again want to stress that many of these projects were funded through your generous donations, so we are happy to send copies of our results to those who have an interest in knowing more. We will continue to study and identify novel ways to prevent breast cancer metastasis and improve survival for all patients with cancer. These studies would not be possible without the generous support of people like you. We truly appreciate all you do for us.