October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, when we reflect on trends in breast cancer research, prevention, and treatment. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 310,720 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and about 42,250 will die of the disease in 2024. In addition, an estimated 2,790 men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer and 530 will die of the disease this year.

Breast cancer is the most common type of non-skin cancer in women in the United States, accounting for 15.5 percent of all new cases. Also, it is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death in American women. 

Breast cancer occurs in many different forms. The most common form is ductal carcinoma, which begins in the cells of the ducts. Cancer that begins in the lobes or lobules is called lobular carcinoma. It is found more often in both breasts than other types of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type in which the breast is warm, red, and swollen.

Being female and older in age are the main risk factors for breast cancer. Other risk factors include estrogen (made in the body), dense breast tissue, age at menstruation and first birth, taking hormones for symptoms of menopause, smoking, obesity, and not getting enough exercise.

Hereditary breast cancer makes up 5 percent to 10 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses. Women who have certain gene mutations, such as mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, have an increased risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. 

Men can also develop breast cancer, making up slightly less than 1 percent of those diagnosed each year. Radiation exposure, high levels of estrogen, and a family history of breast cancer can increase a man’s risk of the disease.

The latest on breast cancer

  • Trastuzumab (Herceptin) was the first targeted therapy for breast cancer and the first fully humanized antibody to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in 1998. For a look back at the long road to approval of trastuzumab, see this post on the AACR’s blog, Cancer Research Catalyst: 25 Years of Trastuzumab: A Legacy of Innovation.
  • Scientists found a new targeted therapy that extends progression-free survival in people with metastatic hormone receptor-positive breast cancer who had progressed after previous endocrine therapy. Read more in Cancer Today magazine: Capivasertib Extends Progression-Free Survival in Hormone Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer
  • In May 2023, the US Preventive Services Task Force released a draft recommendation that all women should get screened for breast cancer every other year starting at age 40, a decade earlier than the previous recommendation to start at age 50. “This new recommendation will help save lives and prevent more women from dying due to breast cancer,” said Task Force immediate past chair Carol Mangione, MD, MSPH.

What the AACR is Doing in Breast Cancer aWARENESS AND Research

Special Conference on Advances in Breast Cancer Research

The AACR has scheduled a special conference in October 2023 on advances in breast cancer research.  The meeting in San Diego will feature a clinical agenda with topics including novel model systems, inflammation and the microenvironment, genomics, heterogeneity, personalized risk and prevention, future therapies and immuno-oncology.

The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

The annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium is cosponsored by the AACR and UT Health San Antonio’s Mays Cancer Center and is a major contributor to breast cancer research and breast cancer awareness. . This year’s SABCS® will be held December 5-9, 2023. The four-day scientific conference is geared to an international audience of basic scientists, physician-scientists, clinical investigators, and breast care providers, as well as patient advocates seeking an exchange of new information in experimental biology, etiology, prevention, diagnosis, and therapy of premalignant breast disease and breast cancer.

The 2022 Symposium featured many exciting developments in breast cancer research and treatment that were covered by the AACR blog, Cancer Research Catalyst:

Supporting Research through Grants and Fellowships

In 2023, the AACR with its funding partners has awarded nine grants to investigators pursuing promising research in breast cancer.

  • With the Lobular Breast Cancer Alliance (LBCA), AACR awarded the AACR-LBCA Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Research Fellowship to Capucine Héraud, PhD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, for a project entitled “Elucidating the unique biology of invasive lobular cancer and response to endocrine treatments.”
  • With the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), AACR awarded two BCRF-AACR Career Development Awards to Promote Diversity and Inclusion: to Evanthia Roussos Torres, MD, PhD, of the University of Southern California, for her project “Suppressing Suppression: Myeloid-centric approach to an anti-tumor response,” and to Yehoda M. Martei MD, MSCE, of the University of Pennsylvania, for the project, “Effectiveness of community health workers on access to breast cancer care.”
  • With Astra-Zeneca, AACR awarded two Breast Cancer Research Fellowships: to Jenny Hogstrom-Stakem, PhD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School for “Mechanisms of succinate-mediated drug resistance in HR+ breast cancer,” and to Milos Spasic, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, for “Understanding how age-associated changes in immune function impact triple-negative breast cancer.”
  • With Pfizer, AACR awarded two Breast Cancer Research Fellowships, to Zuen Ren, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, for “Exploring damaged progenitors as targets for breast cancer prevention,” and Mariana Bustamante Eduardo, PhD, Northwestern University, for “Lipid metabolism, epigenetic reprogramming and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer.”
  • With the Victoria’s Secret Global Fund for Women’s Cancers and Peletonia, AACR awarded two Rising Innovator Research Grants, to Sandra S. McAllister, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, for “Eliminating age- and race-based disparities in breast cancer outcomes,” and to Marleen Kok, MD, PhD, Netherlands Cancer Institute, for “Single cell analyses of immunotherapy responses in triple-negative breast cancer.”

for more information

Please see our page on breast cancer for more information on prevention, screening, and treatment, as well as breast cancer treatment during pregnancy.