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Even tiny breast tumors can be aggressive and may require maximum therapy
Date:12/17/2007

fueling growth, and cancer that is ER/PR+ is considered the least aggressive of the three categories. Generally, studies have shown that in all patients diagnosed with breast cancer, 15 to 20 percent of breast cancers are HER2+ and about 10 to 15 percent are triple negative.

Patients were followed for an average of almost three years, and so far researchers have data on all patients with HER2+ and triple negative cancers and on 219 women with HER2 negative/ER/PR+ cancer. Researchers found that:

  • There were many more grade 2 and grade 3 tumors in women with the two rarer subtypes 92 percent in HER2+ cancer and 91 percent in triple negative cancer compared to HER2 negative/ER/PR+ cancer (36 percent). Tumors are graded 1-3, and higher grade tumors are more likely to grow faster and be more difficult to treat than lower grade tumors.
  • Cancer came back more frequently in HER2+ tumors (7.4 percent of patients relapsed) and triple negative cancers (12.5 percent), compared to HER2 negative/ER/PR+ cancer (1.3 percent).
  • Although the overall outcome of these small, lymph-node-negative tumors was excellent (overall survival 97.4 percent, disease free survival 95.1 percent), these outcomes were different in the three subgroups studied. The death rate was higher in triple negative breast cancer: there was one death in the 24 patients with triple negative tumors, none in the HER2+ group of 27 women, and one death related to relapse in 219 women with HER2 negative/ER/PR+ cancer.

Although only small numbers of women have the rarer cancer subtypes included in this study, the findings suggest that women with HER2+ and triple negative tumors should receive as much treatment as possible in order to prevent cancer relapse, Dr. Amar says. Researchers found that only 35 percent of women with triple negative cancer were treated with adjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy after surgery) despite the higher grade of the tumor
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Contact: Paul Scotti
scotti.paul@mayo.edu
904-953-2299
Mayo Clinic
Source:Eurekalert

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