Letter from the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

LLH network pressBy: Shirley Mertz, President

For those of us who live with metastatic breast cancer, research does not move fast enough.  While patients focus on wanting more new, systemic therapies to stabilize our disease, we may not realize that some researchers and clinicians are looking at attacking metastatic disease using different approaches.

One such approach was discussed at MBCN’s 2012 Metastatic Breast Cancer Conference in Chicago.  During a breakout session, Dr. Steven Chmura, Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Chicago, discussed how he uses concentrated forms of radiotherapy to destroy 5 or fewer metastatic sites beyond the primary site in patients with oligometastasis which is characterized by a single or few detectable metastatic sites.

Radiotherapy was discussed publicly recently when six cancer centers across the United States each received $90 million from the billionaire-shipping magnate Daniel Ludwig to study metastatic disease.  One center receiving funds is the University of Chicago, which has been examining if there is a rational basis for optimism about curing some subsets of metastatic disease, like oligometastasis through radiotherapy.

I invite you to view the video about the use of radiotherapy in metastatic diseaseIn it, Dr. Chmura discusses a young metastatic breast cancer patient whose life was transformed by this therapeutic approach.  If you listen carefully, she is still receiving regular “preventive” treatments, but is able to have a good quality of life without pain.

Finally, listen carefully to the opening statement by Dr. Ralph Weichselbaum in the video. He says, “It is the common view of many physicians, including oncologists, that it is all over if an adult has metastasis.”  That kind of thinking is an obstacle to research that must change.  As patients, we must support those researchers and clinicians who are willing to “think out of the box” about different ways to treat metastatic disease.  Remember, “Informed patients make better doctors.”