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New Breast Cancer Research Data with Dr. Debra Patt

February 27, 2020

Debra Patt, M.D., MPH, MBA, medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–Austin Central, presents research on breast cancer treatment breakthroughs discovered from Texas research.

At Texas Oncology, our physicians are driven by a desire to see continued progress in cancer care, to make life better for each patient we serve. This focus on providing high-quality care in a community setting drives us to participate in clinical research efforts and work toward progress for our patients.

Three years ago, we began participating in the Phase 3 KEYNOTE-522 trial that aimed to evaluate if treating patients with advanced triple negative breast cancer through immunotherapy, specifically pembrolizumab, would increase their body’s response to treatment and improve their overall outcomes. Participants in the study were treated with a combination of immunotherapy and traditional chemotherapy before undergoing surgery. After surgery, they continued immunotherapy.

Less than 20 percent of breast cancer patients are diagnosed with the triple negative form of the disease, but it is one of the most dangerous types of breast cancer. The average survival rate for breast cancer patients whose disease metastasizes, or spreads to other parts of their bodies, is one year, which is why it is extremely important to catch and treat the disease early. Through this study, immunotherapy was added to chemotherapy as a first step to shrink a tumor before the main surgical treatment was performed.

Last fall, the medical oncology community was given a first look at data analyzing how participating patients were responding to this trial at the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress, and I was thrilled to present updated results to Texas at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Based on results that included triple negative breast cancer patients from Central Texas, immunotherapy when combined with chemotherapy does appear to help patients realize better outcomes. Early data indicates that the likelihood of eliminating a tumor before a patient undergoes surgery was improved by about 14 percent. This is a helpful learning because we know that when we can eliminate a tumor before a patient goes to surgery, they’re more likely to see positive results.

In fact, patients participating in the Phase 3 KEYNOTE-522 trial have shown a 6 percent difference in living life free of complications or medical events related to their cancer journeys at follow-up evaluations 18 months after completing treatment, demonstrating a decline in the likelihood of recurrence in a short amount of time. These are significant, encouraging numbers for both patients and cancer care providers that are poised to change the face of breast cancer treatment.

In my time as a medical oncologist, cancer care has changed dramatically. More frequently than not, we are now able to render cancer a chronic disease – and that is incredibly inspiring. Through the growth of immunotherapy research like this study and treatments like pembrolizumab, we are witnessing breakthroughs for triple negative breast cancer patients.”

Looking out on the horizon, targeted therapies are also innovating treatment for brain metastases that could have huge impact for breast cancer patients in another category. HER-2 amplified metastatic breast cancer currently spreads to the brain 50 percent of the time, but clinical trial research is helping us better understand which targeted agents are effective at crossing the blood-brain barrier to control that disease.

Our commitment to research is in alignment with our mission to provide high-quality cancer care and potential outcomes without asking patients to leave their homes, communities, and support systems. At Texas Oncology, we are committed to moving that needle forward through leading-edge research taking place right here in Texas.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.