What was the most promising news from this year's ASCO?

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Question from Darinda: Doctors, what, for you, was the most promising news from this year's ASCO meeting?
Answers - Andrew D. Seidman, M.D. As a medical oncologist, I would say the most exciting news for me was the emergence of a novel new chemotherapy drug for metastatic breast cancer patients whose cancer progressed despite numerous prior chemotherapy regimens. The drug, known as eribulin, is a synthetic analog of halichondrin-B, which is found in sea sponges that grow in coral reefs off the Japanese coast. This drug affects microtubules, but in a manner different than taxanes and other existing chemotherapy drugs. In a large, randomized trial involving 762 patients, eribulin was more effective than "physician's choice" chemotherapy in shrinking breast cancer metastases, prolonging time-to-progression of cancer, and prolonging overall survival. The overall side effect profile of this drug was quite acceptable. However, even as a medical oncologist, I was most excited by the surgical studies addressing axillary surgery and perhaps we'll let Dr. DuPree comment on that.
Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. Randomized clinical trials showed that performing axillary lymph node dissection in early-stage breast cancer patients whose sentinel lymph node showed no sign of cancer spread had no impact on the patient's risk of dying. Therefore, overall survival of the patients undergoing sentinel node biopsy with axillary node dissection, compared to patients with sentinel node biopsy alone was equivalent (overall 5-year survival). The 5-year recurrence of cancer within the lymph nodes was also not statistically different. Therefore, we realize that the axillary lymph node dissection may not play as significant a role in surgical management as it had once been thought. And sentinel node biopsy to stage the axilla gives us the most information with least morbidity.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Updates From the 2010 ASCO Annual Meeting featured Andrew Seidman, M.D. and Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. answering your questions about the latest updates on breast cancer risk, screening techniques, treatment options, and more.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in June 2010.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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