Duke University Health System, Durham, North Carolina

ByLee Wilke, M.D., Breast Surgeon, Duke University Health System
September 28, 2007, 1:28 PM

— -- More than 200,000 women will be diagnosed every year with breast cancer in the United States.

Each woman's breast cancer has its own unique signature, which makes them more or less likely to respond to different drug therapies that are available today.

At Duke University Medical Center, we currently have several clinical trials that are evaluating the use of these signatures to tailor a woman's breast cancer treatment. Rather than wait until after surgery, these studies are looking at a neo-adjuvant, or before surgery treatment, to determine if the drugs are effective at shrinking the tumor.

The first trial is sponsored by the American College of Surgeons' Oncology Group, and identifies women with hormone sensitive cancers. The women take the hormone therapy for three months prior to their surgery.

By taking the drug for a short period before surgery, we can identify those women who would benefit from the drug long-term after surgery.

In another trial, soon to open at Duke, we will use the tumor's genetic signature to identify what type of chemotherapy a woman should receive; not every chemotherapy works on every breast cancer.

Prior to surgery, the women will have their tumor tested for its ability to respond to different agents; if the tumor is responsive, they will receive the drug most appropriate for them.

At surgery we will be able to determine how these drugs have worked. In some cases there will be no tumor left, indicative of an excellent treatment choice.

Here at Duke, we are working to better understand the individual breast cancer signatures to help tailor breast cancer treatment.

Click here for more information on breast cancer treatment and research in the Duke University Health System, N.C.

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