In light of the recent coverage of Judy Perkins being “cured” from metastatic breast cancer with a new trial, I think it’s important that we look at all the facts and what a long road we still have in breast cancer treatment.
First let me say that I am thrilled that Judy has been two years post trial as NED (no evidence of disease). That’s an incredible amount of time for any trial, however it’s not long enough to know how responsive her immune system will remain. Judy was part of a trial that used her own stem cells to attack cancer cells. Since immunotherapy has not yet been successful in treating metastatic breast cancer (MBC), this brings a new hope to treatment options for us living with the disease. However, it’s been only two years post trial. That’s not very long considering MBC can reoccur after 5, 10, 20 plus years.
“Still, the treatment has helped seven of 45 patients with a variety of cancers, Rosenberg says. That's a response rate of about 15 percent, and included patients with advanced cases of colon cancer, liver cancer and cervical cancer.”
The trial only helped seven patients with DIFFERENT cancers. Judy was the only breast cancer patient that had a good outcome. It’s important to remember that MBC life expectancies have not changed much over the past 40 years. We are still losing 113 men and women a day; over 41,000 a year to metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Of all the money donated to breast cancer only 3-5% is given to MBC research in the U.S. Out of the billions of dollars donated, MBC gets less than five percent for the 30% that will metastasize. Think about that. Let’s not forget about women diagnosed de novo metastatic. We still have no idea where or how their breast cancer started. There are also several different subtypes of breast cancer; estrogen positive, HER-2 positive, triple negative and a barrage of combinations that should be considered as well.
I write all of this as a reminder that we have a long way to go with MBC research. There are many other men and women who struggle with treatments and/or have failed multiple trials and are currently dying from this disease. We cannot rest on our laurels thinking this will cure all. I am happy this article has been written in hopes that people will consider immunotherapy as an option for MBC treatment and not a “cure”. I hope that it will encourage some researchers to think outside the box and they will continue to discover unique treatments for those with metastatic breast cancer.