I Remain Hopeful for Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment Breakthroughs
By Wade Smith MD, medical oncologist, City of Hope Newport Beach
Assistant clinical professor, Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research
We continue to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month and acknowledge the 1,000 Orange County women affected by metastatic breast cancer, or Stage IV breast cancer, and the 155,000 women and men living with the disease, today can be charged with mixed emotions.
As an MBC thriver, you may be participating in an online event to raise awareness or advocate for more research, or you may just enjoy time with family or friends. However you spend today, I want you to keep hope close, because progress is being made in research, clinical trials and therapeutics.
Every day, another patient lives beyond a prognosis or receives a no evidence of disease (NED) report on their latest scan. There are now more than 100 therapies in clinical trials and more research is on the horizon. The organization I work for, City of Hope, is a nationally recognized leader in the research and treatment of breast cancer.
In 2018, for example, City of Hope began enrollment for a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell phase 1 clinical trial to treat women with HER2-positive breast cancer that has spread to the brain. HER2 is a protein that drives aggressive cancer progression. The American Cancer Society states that about 20 percent—far too many—of breast cancer patients are HER2-positive.
CAR T is an immunotherapy that reprograms your own T cells to actively seek out and destroy cancerous cells. Using this therapy, each patient’s T cells will be isolated from the blood and genetically engineered to express a CAR that allows these immune cells to target and eradicate HER2-positive cancer cells.
I am hopeful because I collaborate with researchers to develop and evaluate new therapies to improve breast cancer survival and quality-of-life outcomes. I see the benefits of providing more patients with access to a wide range of clinical trials including new chemotherapy and targeted therapies, hormone therapies, novel surgical techniques, innovative radiation approaches and new prevention strategies.
But that’s only part of the many advancements within a broader spectrum of whole-patient breast cancer care. Part of my role in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research is to work closely with City of Hope’s surgery, radiation oncology and supportive care medicine departments to provide coordinated, comprehensive cancer care to patients and caregivers.
We are living in a promising time for MBC research. With new treatments under study, more being informed by clinical trials and therapies improving, I feel optimistic about breakthroughs in MBC treatment and prevention, so that more patients will be able to live higher quality of lives, longer.
City of Hope is a safe place for world-class care. To make an appointment with Dr. Smith or another City of Hope Newport Beach physician, please call (949) 763-2204 or visit cityofhope.org/OC.