The roadmap to breast cancer treatment and survival used to be pretty standard â?? surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. But new breakthroughs are changing the landscape.
"Now we're able to personalize breast cancer,â?? said Dr. T. Trevor Singh. Dr. Singh is one of Michiganâ??s leaders in medical oncology. Heâ??s an assistant professor at Michigan State University, and chairman of the Cancer Committee at McLaren Regional Medical Center in Flint.
He said the key to improving breast cancer survival rates is to understand the disease.
"Breast cancer is a collection of many, many different types of diseases that should be treated according to the type of cancer you have,â?? Dr. Singh said.
Doctors are getting better at pinpointing what type of breast cancer a patient has and what kind of treatment works best.
For example, the Oncotype DX test helps determine the likelihood of disease recurrence of estrogen receptor breast cancer. It also helps determine the benefit from certain kinds of chemotherapy. As a result of the test, Dr. Singh said, the number of breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy has dropped 30 percent.
This targeted therapy has helped patients undergo less surgery and less chemotherapy and receive focal radiation.
Dr. Singh said, â??All cancers are a result of a genetic, something gone wrong in the genes,â?? which is why there are ongoing clinical trials for drugs that target certain genes, even trials to develop a vaccine to prevent recurrence of breast cancer.
At McLaren, Dr. Singh and a team of specialists meet every week to determine the best treatment route for every cancer patient.
â??We are able to narrow the type of treatment, or tailor the treatment to the specific type of genetic makeup of these cancer cells,â?? Dr. Singh said.
He said it's this multi-pronged approach and getting to know the disease better that will make strides against breast cancer.