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Not Another Feel-Good Story About Metastatic Breast Cancer

There's lots of great new research to be excited about but there's still no cure.
"I could not bring myself to believe that if knowledge presented danger, the solution was ignorance. To me, it always seemed that the solution had to be wisdom. You did not refuse to look at danger, rather you learned how to handle it safely."

The quote above, from Isaac Asimov, is about artificial intelligence, but as a woman with metastatic breast cancer, it resonates with me this month as July 2017 takes on a decidedly "Pinktober" feel, but with a welcome focus on metastatic breast cancer.

A really fantastic study that estimates the changes in metastatic survival rates, among other things, was published earlier this summer, followed by essays about breast cancer "cures" and reflections on past treatments.

That study was followed by one that has raised questions and fears because it looked at whether or not neoadjuvant (that is before-surgery) chemotherapy could lead to metastasis. The study looked at a rodent model and tissue from 20 patients who'd undergone neoadjuvant therapy with three specific drugs. The finding, in a nutshell, appears to be an urge for caution with this type of treatment with the drugs studied. To say it is preliminary is an understatement.

But there's no getting around the fact that these scientists may have found something important for many women who'll be diagnosed with breast cancer in the future. The finding may eventually lead to real, effective prevention of metastasis in a select population of patients. Eventually. Maybe.

The fact that a limited number of drugs were looked at in this study on neoadjuvant chemotherapy is telling. Breast cancer, as much as we want a silver bullet, is a complicated disease. The cancer roaming my body is different from that of someone else given the same HER2+ label, it is vastly different from my friend with ER+ breast cancer, and both of us are different from someone else with triple negative breast cancer.

But that doesn't stop newspapers and magazines and newscasters from looking at these studies and painting a picture of a cure.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Breast Cancer CURE discussion group.
Martha lives in Illinois and was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in January 2015. She has a husband and three children, ranging in age from 12 to 18, a dog and a lizard.
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