The Importance of Biomarker Testing for Patients and Their Families

March 19, 2020

Understanding biomarkers specific to breast cancer can guide treatment plans and help families with a history of the disease take preventive measures.

Understanding biomarkers specific to breast cancer can guide treatment plans and help families with a history of the disease take preventive measures.

Barbara Bigelow knows this well as she has been living with metastatic breast cancer since 2002. Originally told she had estrogen receptor (ER)-positive disease, she later learned she actually had triple-negative breast cancer. At the CURE® Educated Patient Breast Cancer Summit in Miami, Bigelow, who is a Metavivor board member, spoke with us about the role of biomarker testing and the concern she has for her daughters.

TRANSCRIPTION:

There’s no one breast cancer. There are many types and within that there’s several subtypes. I told you I was ER positive at one point, and I am a special person, so I mutated to triple negative. And the thing about being triple negative is it usually occurs in younger women or more in African American women, neither of which I am. And so, the biomarker testing is really important to focus in on what exactly is going on in your genetic profile and what mutations you might have that might lead us to treatment that is specifically designed for you.

You know, I happen to have a high PD-L1 marker and I also have a high tumor mutational load, and because of those two factors, they think that’s why I responded so well to the immunotherapy. Whereas, someone sitting next to me with triple-negative breast cancer might not have those factors and it won’t work for them at all.

The testing is critical. Just a month ago, I asked (my doctors) to update my testing because of my daughters. I mean, my daughters are 28 and 30 now, and I wanted them to update the testing for the sake of them because they’re at high risk having a mother and two maternal aunts with breast cancer, and also my nieces.

So, I mean, I wanted to update it for them so that in the future, they may discover things they don't yet know about the genetic component. And also, I've banked my blood so that if they make future discoveries, they can compare it to my blood and that might help my kids


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