Given the current rate of progress in this field, it may not be completely unlikely that women with hormone receptor–positive breast cancer will be cured of this disease in the foreseeable future.
Shaheenah Dawood, MBBCH, MRCP (UK)
The last two decades have seen the development of a variety of novel therapeutic agents that have improved prognoses for women with breast cancer.
Over the past decade, inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a rare and aggressive subtype of locally advanced breast cancer (LABC), has received much attention at the level of public awareness as well as at the level of research.
In this issue of ONCOLOGY, Houchens and Merajver have commendably attempted to summarize the results of existing research into the molecular determinants of this aggressive disease. The authors have focused specifically on classical prognostic and predictive markers, although these are not specific to the IBC breast tumor subtype.
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare and aggressive form of the disease. It is diagnosed based on clinical signs of a rapidly enlarging, tender, erythematous, edematous breast that often presents without an underlying breast mass. IBC historically was considered a uniformly fatal disease. With the advent of multimodality treatments including primary systemic chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy, approximately one-third of women diagnosed with IBC will become long-term survivors. This review examines the limitations of the current definition of IBC, explores our current understanding of the biology of IBC, and reviews the many exciting advances in locoregional and systemic treatment of IBC.
One of the best examples of the "bench to bedside" process is the development of trastuzumab (Herceptin) for HER2-overexpressed breast tumors. From the identification of the neu oncogene in 1984 and its subsequent cloning, to the development of a humanized monoclonal antibody targeting HER2 that improved outcome not only in the metastatic setting but also in the adjuvant setting[4-7] has been a long yet fruitful journey.
Over the past 20 years we have witnessed the emergence of a new generation of aromatase inhibitors as valuable antiestrogens in the management of both advanced and early-stage breast cancer. In addition, the list of cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agents useful in the control of breast cancer has grown considerably. The emergence of anthracyclines was a major chemotherapeutic step forward in the 1980s, and the taxanes have clearly been the agents with the greatest impact on breast cancer treatment over the past decade. The end of the past 2 decades has been characterized by a greater understanding of the molecular biology of breast cancer, rational drug design, and the development of agents that disrupt specific cellular targets and pathways. The development of better prognostic and predictive assays that employ a panel of genes involved in the malignant and metastatic phenotype promises to allow clinicians to better select patients who could forgo adjuvant chemotherapy. Finally, adjunctive and supportive therapy of breast cancer has evolved substantially over the past 20 years. This review will highlight some of the landmark accomplishments during this time, and offer a glimpse at where we might be 20 years from now.